|Under current Texas law, a first offense of possessing less than two ounces of marijuana can result in 180 days in prison and a $2,000 fine. Getting caught with more than two ounces could mean one year of incarceration.
Due to these harsh penalties, Texas spends millions of taxpayer dollars filling up prison cells with nonviolent offenders each year. The convicted Texans are often people of color with low incomes, and a sentence only makes re-entering the job market more difficult.
Even Rick Perry has acknowledged that Texas' drug penalties are a problem, and he's not the only one.
In a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, 61 percent of Texans supported making possession of marijuana a civil offense instead of a criminal offense, punishable by a small fine but no jail time. Only 35 percent of the Texans surveyed identified as Democrats.
In the same survey, 58 percent of Texans supported allowing seriously and terminally ill patients use medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor.
Although Wendy Davis expressed personal support for medical marijuana and said she was open to considering the decriminalization of small amounts of the plant, she emphasized that the choice was up to the people of Texas.
"I think Texas is in a position right now of being able to sit back and watch to see how this [legalization] is playing out in other arenas," Davis said, referencing Colorado's and Washington's recent policies legalizing recreational marijuana.
She brought up "challenges to that law that are presented in law enforcement," including the difficulty in determining whether a person is driving under the influence of marijuana.
According to interviewer Rodger Jones, Abbott's campaign has refused to clarify the candidate's stance on Texas' drug policies. If Abbott chooses to defend Texas' stringent penalties, Jones notes, he will "seem decidedly retrograde."
On the other hand, if Abbott sides with Wendy Davis, Rick Perry, Barack Obama, and the multitude of other policymakers coming out in support of decriminalization, it could signal a turning point in the statewide conversation on drug laws.
Photo courtesy of the Statesman.
Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.
[Ed. Note: The title of this article and several sentences were changed to provide an even more nuanced picture of Davis's views on marijuana laws and her willingness to consider reform.]