It is well known in Texas that our Law Enforcement Officers are the best in the nation when it comes to that moment in time when the feet need to hit the ground. When you call 911, you can bet that Texas Law Enforcement Officers will respond quickly and deal with the situation at hand decisively.
Once the Law Enforcement Officers deal with the criminal element, they pass them off to the Texas Criminal Justice System. They are well known for their “tough on crime” campaign toting all of the old paradigms left over from the Reagan administration.
This bring us to the story about a Tyler Texas man named Henry Walter Wooten, 54 years old. Henry isn’t the brightest toker in the world. He was caught by law enforcement within 1000 feet of Ebenezer Day Care Center in Tyler with baggies of weed in his pockets toking on a joint. On Thursday, March 4th, Henry received 35 years in a state correctional facility.
Trey Cloud, DPS forensic chemist, testified that the weight of the marijuana seized from Wooten when he was arrested was 4.6 ounces, and the packaging alone weighed 1.06 ounces. He also testified that the drug seized from Wooten was indeed marijuana.
This is, more or less, a warning for those who would openly defy Marijuana Laws in Texas. The Texas Justice system is a series of policies designed to incarcerate people, not rehabilitate or help them in anyway. Henry’s case is unique because his possession limit was on the cusp of being a misdemeanor. In Texas, it is a misdemeanor to possess four ounces or less. One to two ounces is a class B, and three to four is a class A misdemeanor. Henry was found guilty of possessing four ounces to one pound, a felony which could be 2 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. However, since Henry was in a “drug free zone”, Smith County Assistant District Attorney Richard Vance had asked for the jury to give Wooten a sentence of 99 years. Do you think he got off easy?
According to the University of North Texas Rehabilitative Studies professor, James Quinn, Texas is on the cusp of a real grass roots legalization effort.
76% of Texans are pro-Medical Marijuana and 46% are for blanket legalization. However, 80% of those who are in favor of Medical Marijuana believe they stand alone in their thoughts.
According to Ryan Rodriguez, the Executive Director of DFWNorml, (Dallas Fort Worth / North Texas Chapter of NORML),
Once Texans start to understand that most of their neighbors agree with them, they will become emboldened to come out of the Cannabis Closet. We are sitting on a legalization powder keg! Once the powder keg goes off, then we can finally start a real dialog with our policy makers in the Texas House of Representatives.
Legalization in Texas is going to be an uphill battle. Our legislatures meet every two years. This year, 2010, is election year for all of them, including our congressional representatives, and next year the legislature convenes. We intend to submit several bills next year and are working closely with Texas NORML as well as volunteer lawyers and other activists. We could always use more help though!.
NORML activism has increased substantially over the last 18 months, more and more people feel empowered to come out to the meetings and fund raising events mostly because of the encouraging news around the country as more and more states pass legislation for decriminalization. With the possibility of California passing an initiative next year legalizing Marijuana, Texans are starting to open their eyes to the idea of another economic source of income.
The fact is that most of you who are reading this article will probably believe that sentencing a person to prison for 35 years for the possession of a non-toxic, non-addicting, all natural substance that has proven anti-cancer capabilities is not really protecting society from anything dangerous. He might have been stupid choosing his location to medicate, after all, it was Tyler, “Texas”, but nobody should spend a day in a steel cage for medicating, much less their entire life or 35 years. Let’s hope he earns a reprieve in his appeal.
In the meantime, help support your local chapters of NORML. Texas NORML is looking to create a Houston Chapter, so if you live in Houston and want to start a chapter, visit http://texasnorml.org/ and click on the contact link.