Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) last month linked marijuana legalization to murder and warned that decriminalizing the drug would send the message “that it’s OK.”
During a drug panel at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Perry was asked about the rising support for marijuana legalization. The panel’s moderator, Univision anchor Enrique Acevedo, noted that President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) had all recently talked about reforming marijuana laws.
Perry insisted he didn’t want to join the marijuana “parade.”
“I think the fact is it is very important for science to keep playing a most important role in this before we jump to some conclusion, before we run out and get in the front of a parade that is going somewhere because we think it is where the public opinion is,” he said.
“And I want to share just one thing — or make a response to [United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan] about Portugal and the legalization of drugs there. In the five years since that has occurred there, 40 percent increase in the murder rate in that country. Anecdotal, I totally understand that, but the fact is we need to look at all of the data, the science.”
Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) had “lectured” the president for comparing marijuana and alcohol, Perry remarked. The marijuana that Obama smoked as a young man was not the same as the “genetically improved, incredibly potent” marijuana in use currently, he alleged.
Later in the discussion, Perry worried that eliminating criminal penalties for the possession of marijuana would send the message “that it’s OK” to use drugs.
“The question for me is if the economics of this is what really drives this, and we as a society and government say it is OK for you to smoke marijuana — we have decriminalized it — basically say that it is OK for you to use, be thoughtful about it, here are the bad things that come from it, what is that going to cost society? I mean, what is the medical cost to this world when we send that message, when influential men and women stand up in front of these young influenceable young people and say it is OK.”
“Is it more than the cost of that money to the cartel or is it less? I don’t know,” Perry said.
The Texas governor worried it would be too expensive to educate the public about the harms of marijuana. When asked if the war on drugs had improved the situation, Perry responded with a question of his own: “How long have we been at the war on terror?”
“Let’s stick to the first war, the war on drugs,” the moderator replied after a brief silence.
“But I think there is a point here,” Perry said. “Did we fight the war on drugs correctly every day? No. Has the war on terror been fought correctly every day? No. The point is that after 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what happened in the past. 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 and destroying their lives, and that’s what we’ve done over the last decade. So I think there’s some innovation that goes on in the states that can translate not just to Oklahoma or California or New York, but to Switzerland, to France, to other countries that have this drug issue facing them, that there are some alternatives without going that big full step and decriminalizing and sending a message to people that it’s OK.”