“As the governor of the second-largest state in the country, what I can do is start us on policies that can start us on the road towards decriminalization," said Perry.
On the panel alongside Juan Manuel Santos, president of the Republic of Colombia, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Perry stressed his staunch support of the 10th Amendment saying, "States should be able to set their own policies on abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, then people will decide where they want to live.'"
According to the World Economic Forum, Perry said that while the feds should butt out when it comes to pot laws, it was completely constitutional for states like Colorado (which began the sale of recreational marijuana on Jan. 1) to experiment with decriminalization.
But don't expect to toke up freely on the streets of Texas any time soon.
Perry stopped short of backing full legalization for his own state, saying, “I’m probably the only person who is going to be an anti-legalization person on the stage tonight." However, he did endorse the idea of using Drug Courts, which offer treatment, reform and less severe punishment for lesser offenses.
Perry's comments generated praise from national pro-pot folks like the Marijuana Policy Project, an unlikely advocate of the socially conservative right-winger.
"We applaud Gov. Perry for standing up in support of states' rights to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use. Our marijuana prohibition policies have failed, and it is time to adopt a more sensible policy," said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. "Adults should not be punished for using an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and as Gov. Perry acknowledged, they certainly should not be put in jail or prison."
And his remarks stunned criminal justice reform activists, according to national news reports.
"[I am] shocked," said Ana Yañez-Correa, director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. "The decriminalization of marijuana is not something Perry has historically supported."
More than 15,000 people are placed behind bars for sole possession of drugs in Texas, said Yañez-Correa.
Possession of two ounces or less of marijuana amounts to a Class B misdemeanor, and is punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. Having between four ounces and five pounds of marijuana is a state jail felony and can end with a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in prison and a max of up to two years in prison and fine not to exceed $10,000.