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Gov. Perry Surprises Pro-Marijuana Supporters

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A surprise statement about the decriminalization of marijuana from Gov. Rick Perry, long a champion of conservative causes, has some people scratching their heads.

“What I can do as the governor of the second largest state in the nation is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison,” said Perry at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He also defended Colorado and Washington’s legalization of marijuana as a states’ rights issue – and said he wants to keep minor drug offenders out of jail.

Perry joined a chorus of voices about the issue, one that includes President Obama. However, he has since backtracked, leaving many people wondering what he actually meant.

Pro-marijuana groups especially took notice of Gov. Perry’s statements and were hopeful it meant less jail time for people who get high.

“He is softening his tone and suggesting that we use alternatives to incarceration,” said David Sloane with Dallas/Fort Worth NORML.

NORML is an educational organization dedicated to legalizing marijuana in the state.

Despite Texas pot supporters’ belief it’s a change in the Governor’s position, Perry’s office insists it isn’t and he was only stressing his support for expanding drug courts that promote treatment programs over jail time.

“This is not a new position. He is not in favor of legalization or decriminalization. There’s still a penalty with the drug courts,” according to Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed. “Some people have said decriminalize, I think that’s a step too far.”

One Dallas criminal attorney said marijuana prosecutions are dropping anyway in the state since it’s no longer a priority among police.

“A lot of people view marijuana as a not very harmful drug as opposed to methamphetamine cocaine and heroin,” said Criminal Defense Attorney, Toby Shook.

Regardless of a someone’s personal stance on the issue, Perry wants the state to decide on whether to legalize pot. But supporters of the drug said the likelihood of that happening in Texas anytime soon is a pipe dream.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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