Houston police chief sounds off on pot arrests

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland is making national headlines after indicating it may be time for marijuana use to be legalized not only in Texas but across the country.

“We cannot criminalize such a large population of society that engage in casual marijuana use,” the chief said in the radio interview. The topics were wide-ranging — but the chief was largely asked about marijuana use. McClelland made it clear he believes enforcing marijuana laws is wasting time and other valuable resources.

“Taxpayers can’t afford to build jails and prisons to lock up everyone that commits a crime,” said McClelland. “We must put more money into crime prevention, treatment, education, job training.”

The chief also took aim at the decades-long war on drugs, saying mandatory sentencing policies have had a disproportionate impact on young minorities.

“A lot of young men who are minorities in their early 20s have a felony conviction on their resume and now they’re unemployable,” said McClelland. “We wonder why they don’t have jobs, why they’re not contributing to society.”

Many smoke shop managers like John Sroujr are welcoming the chief’s comments, believing they could greatly increase profits if marijuana was ever legalized in Texas.

“You can look to Colorado and it’s plain to see,” said Sroujr. “It’s become a billion dollar industry, a multibillion dollar industry and I believe if we legalize in Texas it’s going to do good things for society.”

The chief didn’t call for outright legalization, but said he and other local leaders plan to soon reveal the results of a pilot program for first-time offenders.

“We’re going to be able to make some good recommendations to our state lawmakers and other elected officials on where we need to go in the state of Texas,” said McClelland.

Although marijuana is legal in several states and more prevalent in the treatment for cancer and other conditions, many doctors said there’s still not enough research on long-term health effects.

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