Drug Policy

You Can Get a Ticket for That, but Only in Austin

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A Texas law that took effect in September allows police to write tickets for Class A or B misdemeanors involving less than four ounces of pot instead of arresting the offenders and hauling them to the county jail. So far only the Travis County Sheriff's Department, which lobbied for the law, has taken advantage of the ticketing option, aimed at reducing jail overcrowding, transportation costs, and demands on police time. Although their jails are equally overcrowded, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin counties "never set up a system to process the misdemeanor citations," The Dallas Morning News reports, and "they have no plans to do so." Greg Davis, Collin County's first assistant district attorney, worries that ticketing for pot possession may "lead some people to believe that drug use is no more serious than double parking." He says "we don't want to send that message to potential drug users, particularly young people." I agree: Given the inconvenience and traffic hazard it creates, double parking is clearly worse than smoking pot. 

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  1. As an Austinite, let me be the first to make it clear that the best direct measure of a policy or politician’s complete hopelenessness with the general public is its popularity in Austin.

  2. Jacob,

    I think there’s a typo–you have the state as Texas.

  3. Mr. Sullum,

    You don’t agree. If double parking is worse than smoking pot, then smoking pot is no worse than double parking, which is the message he didn’t want to send.

  4. For a magazine called Reason … !

    Okay, committing suicide now.

  5. *shakes finger* Naughty naughty, looks like someone forgot to think of the children.

  6. “I agree: Given the inconvenience and traffic hazard it creates, double parking is clearly worse than smoking pot.”

    I was with you right up until the end there.

    Until it’s legal and law abiding citizens don’t have to suffer the spillover from the black market, etc., surely da ganja is more inconvenient than double parking.

    I remember when I was a kid, I always thought it was easier to get bud than it was to get alcohol. I wonder, is that still the case?

  7. You should have embedded a rimshot .wav file in this post.

  8. “Until it’s legal and law abiding citizens don’t have to suffer the spillover from the black market, etc., surely da ganja is more inconvenient than double parking.”

    I used to live in a neighborhood where I heard gun shots just about every night. I don’t remember anybody shooting anybody else over a double parking deal gone bad.

    I don’t think anybody ever parleyed double parking into a full scale protection racket.

  9. Uh, Ken, he meant it in the way of natural law; obviously marijuana is more dangerous because it’s illegal, but if it were legal, it would be far less dangerous than double parking.

    WHOMP! THERE IT IS!

  10. Double parking in the hands of a sixteen year old driver? …more dangerous than legal marijuana?

    That’s silly.

  11. Even if they should be legal, intoxicants aren’t less dangerous than double parking. …neither are firearms. ….which doesn’t mean they should be illegal, it just means that they’re more dangerous than double parking.

    Intoxicants if legal will still create inconveniences. It’s one thing to say our freedom is worth more than the inconveniences caused by those who don’t respect other people’s rights, quite another to say that the inconvenience caused by people who are both intoxicated and irresponsible will be less than the inconvenience caused by…ahem…double parking.

    Seriously.

  12. I dunno Ken. I guess if the sixteen year old was parking while intoxicated, I could see your point. Otherwise, I don’t see why Sheriff Davis needs to be his daddy.

  13. Thanks for the heads up. This is one Collin County resident who will continue scrupulously obey traffic laws while flouting drug laws.

  14. To the other comments: People seem to forget that DUI is still a punishable offense whether marijuana possession is legal, ticketed or illegal. You can get a DUI for legally prescribed painkillers. I come across this emotional error in many drug discussions. Theft, murder, DUI, public intoxication laws would likely remain even if heroin and meth were available at WalMart. The reasonable stance to me is that *ALL* drugs even the most deadly should be treated like alcohol: available to adults for consumption in safe places.

  15. Even if they should be legal, intoxicants aren’t less dangerous than double parking

    Nice of you to state your personal opinion as a fact.

    How exactly is someone getting high in their own home anywhere near as dangerous as obstructing traffic by double parking? Is it dangerous for me to drink a beer or two at home as well?

  16. worries that ticketing for pot possession may “lead some people to believe that drug use is no more serious than double parking.”

    I’m kinda with him here. Double parking is way more serious than pot use.

  17. I came of age in a time of de facto decriminalization. At the time it seemed pretty cool and we all thought legalization would evolve naturally. But the black market totally sucked and the suckatude was used to pound the drug war drums. Pot needs to be as legal as tobacco and alcohol, or we haven’t solved anything.

  18. Matt J,

    Greetings from another Collin County Reason.oid.ite.able person, reader… whatever…

    Have I seen you at any Ron Paul meet-ups, assuming you support him, of course.

    Me, Plano(Stepford), just getting tickets for not buckling up, those bastards!

  19. Have I seen you at any Ron Paul meet-ups, assuming you support him, of course.

    This was supposed to be a question…

  20. It’s a sad day for Reason commentators.

    First, because of the Orwellian name I pray that Crimethink was joking.

    Also, what’s this talk of protection rackets and gangland style shootings because of pot deals gone wrong? Are those the effects of the drug or the law? It’d be well nigh impossible to set up a protection racket for a legal drug, and the gangs and mafia love pot (all drugs for that matter) because of the profit margin created by the law. There’s a demand so there will be a supply.

  21. worries that ticketing for pot possession may “lead some people to believe that drug use is no more serious than double parking.”

    I’m kinda with him here. Double parking is way more serious than pot use.

    Lessee, if I double park I obstruct traffic, either delaying other peoples lives or causing them to go around into opposing traffic lanes risking other peoples property and lives.
    If I smoke some reefer in the park, I might laugh loudly, thereby slightly inconveniencing somebody reading the paper.

    I’m lining up with Jacob and Paul on this one.

    Standard Libertarian Disclaimer #3A (don’t drive under the influence of drugs) applies.

  22. “I might laugh loudly, thereby slightly inconveniencing somebody reading the paper.”

    see, J sub, I gotta strongly disagree with you hier.

    If you laugh loudly while someone is reading the paper, you could potentially cause them to reconsider how crappy the quality of the rag is, make them throw it away, and order a pizza to hang out with you!

    It’s a win-win.

    🙂

  23. Anybody who has ever driven down a cross street in Manhattan and had it obstructed completely by a double parked car will understand how deadly serious double parking is. Weed can’t compare.

  24. Until it’s legal and law abiding citizens don’t have to suffer the spillover from the black market, etc., surely da ganja is more inconvenient than double parking.

    Jeebus, Ken, are you really so dense that you can’t see this is a circular argument? Pot needs to be outlawed because there is a black market in pot because it is outlawed?

  25. potentially cause them to reconsider how crappy the quality of the rag is, make them throw it away, and order a pizza to hang out with you!

    It’s a win-win.

    Mister Moose,
    It’s only win-win as long as no anchovies are involved.

    😉

  26. It’s only win-win as long as no anchovies are involved.

    You are a classless, tasteless, palateless person.

  27. “””Pot needs to be as legal as tobacco and alcohol, or we haven’t solved anything.”””

    I’m not sure how much longer tobacco will be legal. Currently we are moving towards more prohibition, not away.

    Double parking can lead to road rage. Pot leads to the inability to get off the couch. Haven’t you guys been watching TV!!!!

  28. “””Although their jails are equally overcrowded, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin counties “never set up a system to process the misdemeanor citations,””””

    The same thing happened in NYC when Guiliani was mayor and he cracked down on quality of life crimes. They started arresting people, or handing out tickets for pot and drinking. The system couldn’t really handle it so they started using ACDs, Ajournments in Contemplation of Dismissal. Stay out of trouble for a year and they would drop the charge.

  29. You are a classless, tasteless, palateless person.

    Wrong Bucko!
    Low Class (NSFW)
    Poor Taste
    Smokers Palate (Disgusting Warning)

  30. I used to live in a neighborhood where I heard gun shots just about every night. I don’t remember anybody shooting anybody else over a double parking deal gone bad.

    Obviously you’ve never lived far enough north to have to shovel snow out of your parking place. Up there winter parking space possession is serious.

    I was listening to drive-time radio coming out of San Antonio several years ago, and the DJ brought up the story of a legislator arrested on Austin’s Sixth Street for soliciting a prostitute and packing a gun. “How can that be?” he asked. “I thought every man in Texas did that.”

    A listener called in with the answer. “The legislator wasn’t arrested in Texas. He was arrested in Austin.”

  31. Windtell,

    I wasn’t stating my personal opinion, I was noting that in his rush to be clever, Mr Sullum parsed what the prosecutor said incorrectly. He didn’t say “we don’t want to send the message that smoking pot is just as bad as double parking,” he said “no worse”.

    Since Mr Sullum says that double parking is worse than smoking pot, he must therefore think that smoking pot is no worse than double parking. The prosecutor said he does not want people to think that smoking pot is no worse than double parking. So, Mr Sullum does not agree with the prosecutor, and his statement “I agree” towards the end of the post is thus incorrect.

  32. “Jeebus, Ken, are you really so dense that you can’t see this is a circular argument? Pot needs to be outlawed because there is a black market in pot because it is outlawed?”

    Maybe I’m being confusing, but I don’t think I’m being circular. Let’s start with the bit about me saying that pot needs to be outlawed.

    I didn’t say that. I fully support the decriminalization of marijuana. I think people who act irresponsibly with it should be held responsible for the harm they do to others–I feel the same way about firearms. I think people who use firearms irresponsibly should be held accountable if they hurt someone–that doesn’t mean I think firearms should be illegal.

    …doesn’t mean firearms are less dangerous or inconvenient than double parking either. Just because something should be legal doesn’t mean it’s less inconvenient than double parking. The irresponsible use of alcohol is pretty damn inconvenient, more so than double parking. Doesn’t mean alcohol should be illegal.

    Is this getting through?

  33. My point is that marijuana use, illegal as it is, is more dangerous and inconvenient than double parking. My other point is that marijuana use, even if it were legal, would still be more dangerous and inconvenient than double parking.

    That’s all.

  34. “marijuana use, even if it were legal, would still be more dangerous and inconvenient than double parking.”

    How?

    Double parking is inherently dangerous. Marijuana use is not So what do you mean?

  35. “never set up a system to process the misdemeanor citations,”

    Uh, isn’t that what the county courthouse is for?

  36. “Double parking is inherently dangerous. Marijuana use is not So what do you mean?”

    Legal or not, children shouldn’t use marijuana for a number of reasons. Does double parking present the same kind of threat to children? …because children will continue to use marijuana.

    Intoxicated drivers won’t disappear with decriminalization either. Personally, I think we’ll continue to suffer intoxicated drivers regardless of whether we decriminalize marijuana, but that doesn’t mean intoxicated drivers are less of a nuisance than double parking.

  37. My point is that marijuana use, illegal as it is, is more dangerous and inconvenient than double parking.

    Marijuana use doesn’t cause any of the harms you complain about. The black market does. “The black market” and “marijuana use” are not the same thing at all.

  38. What, you’re just ignoring everything I wrote after that? Did you see the part about how I’m in favor of decriminalization?

    “Marijuana use doesn’t cause any of the harms you complain about. The black market does. “The black market” and “marijuana use” are not the same thing at all.”

    Is this like the handguns don’t kill people–people kill people argument? …’cause I kinda agree with that argument, but I also understand that guns are more dangerous than double parking.

    Yeah, I think decriminalized marijuana is better than marijuana being a crime, AND I think that even if marijuana was decriminalized, it would be more dangerous and create more “inconveniences” than double parking.

    Even if free access to firearms did mean there were more armed robberies (and I’m not saying it does), I’d rather live in a society with more armed robberies and more freedom than one with fewer armed robberies and less freedom.

    …but I’m not willing to pretend that double parking is more inconvenient than armed robberies, or that double parking is more inconvenient than irresponsible marijuana use.

    I suspect that if marijuana were decriminalized that we’d see a pretty small uptick in use, maybe even among kids. I suspect there might be more car accidents, by some small amount, that there might be a very small nudge higher in the rate of high school drop outs… All of which I’m willing to take on the chin, so long as we get rid of the Drug War. That’s how I feel about my freedom–if I find out that there’s reason to believe those bad effects won’t happen, that’s just icing on the cake. …I’m already on board.

    …but don’t expect me to believe those effects, effects of marijuana use, which happen regardless of whether marijuana is decriminalized, are less inconvenient than double parking. They just aren’t.

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