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Cannabis Opinion: Democratic Party – Candidate for Hays County District Attorney – Kelley Higgins
Kelly Higgins is the Democratic Party Candidate for the office of Hays County District Attorney. He was previously published by us in our multi-part series called “Get to Know Your Candidate: Democratic Party – Kelly Higgins for District Attorney”
Now, Mr. Higgins has publicly expressed his opinion on his views related to cannabis and the enforcement of cannabis crimes.
As a side note, Mr. Higgins has also stated he hopes San Martians vote for the de-criminalization referendum in November.
Below you will find Mr. Higgins in-depth view on the topic.
Written Statement by Candidate Kelly Higgins on Cannabis
I’m Kelly Higgins, Democratic candidate for Hays County District Attorney. I want to talk to my neighbors about cannabis. I try to talk about this topic whenever I get the chance, but frankly, those occasions never really give me the time to say it all. I have to talk about other topics, so I can’t really share my full view of cannabis prohibition and what it means in Hays County. So if you’re interested, here’s what I’d say if I had fifteen minutes.
The View May Indicate that Cannabis Prosecution is Out of Control
We all know that a strong majority of Texans, and people here in Hays County, believe cannabis should be legal and regulated and taxed. And that’s because we see the unjust effects of prohibition on the lives and futures of young people, of elderly people, of people in pain. And we see our jail unable to hold the county’s inmates, who are then held in other places, as far away as Oklahoma and Louisiana. All this at an unacceptably high cost to the taxpayer.
Yet today we are still bringing in another prisoner who had some cannabis. This is true every day. Some days more than one.
The View May Indicate the Cost to Prosecute Cannabis Crimes is Taxing on Everyone Involved
We process him into the jail, create a criminal record for the person, feed them meals, provide security and any necessary medical care until they can be magistrated by a judge the following day. After being magistrated, the person accused of possessing cannabis can probably bond out of jail. Then your county dollars for the clerical process to release the person from jail with a promise to appear in court on some future day. The Personal Recognizance Bond includes a requirement that, to stay out of jail, they must submit to monthly urinalysis even as they wait for a court date. They sign that bond because it means getting out of jail.
That future date, ten or eleven months away, arrives. You may have forgotten about the whole thing, or maybe you thought they had let it go because it’s such a trifle. But the cannabis, sometimes a laughably small amount, has been at the crime lab all this time, being analyzed to be sure it is really cannabis. Lab fees. About $140 usually.
The View May Indicate the District Attorney Has Control to Curve Cannabis Prosecution
Now the case is filed by the DA in the County Clerk’s office, requiring clerical resources there, and jurisdiction is held by the County Courts at Law, and the case arrives in court, and the court staff sets a date for the person and the lawyers to come to court and talk about the case. The case is costing the taxpayer courthouse resources every time it is touched by staff or lawyers.
In every courtroom there are several county employees any time court is in session. Their time is paid for by your tax dollars. They handle the process of ushering the case along to its proper docket, where a judge will hear what the lawyers say about it, and probably set it off for another time.
Honestly, the case is usually set off several times, often for over a year, or even three years. Every month or so, the person and the lawyers must come to court to talk about the case. Every person in the courtroom, including the judge, the prosecutors, the court reporter, the Court’s staff and the Clerk’s staff, and the Bailiff are on your taxpayer clock. All these people’s valuable time and attention is being spent on that person’s cannabis accusation.
The View May Indicate the Long Legal Process Does Nothing But Harm the Person Arrested for Cannabis and Waste Tax Payer Dollars
Finally, the case is resolved. Probably it’s ok. The person is probably not convicted. They may even be able to clear their record. Whew!
Want to know what all that costs the Hays County taxpayer?
$27,000. Twenty-Seven Thousand Dollars.
Hays County taxpayers just spent $27,000 on a ten dollar joint. For $27,000, Hays County taxpayers extracted some perverse notion of justice from a person who had some cannabis. They had to take a class, had to provide negative urine samples dozens of times, had to do maybe 24 hours of some community service volunteering, and get two letters of recommendation from people they know. In the big picture, they had to submit.
Now, what was any of that $27,000 for? Justice?
Now let me tell you the cost to the person…
First, good luck letting your boss know you won’t be in to work tomorrow morning. You’ll be in jail, waiting to get out around 4 or 5PM the next day. Hope tomorrow morning isn’t your final exam. Or a job interview. Or a wedding or a funeral. Because you are in jail until you’re out.
Now you’re out of jail. Hopefully you’ve sorted out the problems of being locked up overnight. Hopefully your job is still there. Hopefully someone fed your cat. Hopefully your SO isn’t too upset about it all. Hopefully your car wasn’t impounded. If it was, that’s a couple hundred bucks.
Now comes the long wait until the case is filed by the DA, nine months or more, before you have to go to court for the first of many times. This is a good time to hire a lawyer. This is a cost of cannabis prohibition. Couple thousand dollars probably. It comes from the person, and goes to their lawyer. If they can’t afford one, and many can’t, then you the taxpayer will pay for their lawyer AND the prosecutor. And don’t forget the judge. All on your dime, neighbors.
The View May Indicate Cannabis Arrests May Be Valid, Based Upon Law, But Unreasonable Due to Potential Legalization
For the person, the cost has just begun. Missing work a dozen or more times to go to a courtroom and give a urine sample. Hope it’s negative. Because if it’s positive, you leave the courtroom through a different door than the one you came in. You leave through the back-to-jail door. When this happens, you can chalk up another round of all those jail costs. Going back to jail over a trifle is pretty common.
Ok now your lawyer has asked the prosecutor for all the evidence in this case, and the prosecutor sends all the evidence, and the lawyer watches all the video and reads all the reports and studies the lab report and tells you that, yep, it looks like you got caught with cannabis.
Maybe there’s an issue with the search, and we can have a hearing in court about that. Takes an hour or two usually, with all the same county employees there working on this case, and an officer or two on the stand getting paid overtime while they answer questions about this cannabis arrest.
Or maybe there’s not an issue with the search, and your lawyer tells you that you have a right to trial, and juries do not like cannabis cases because 70% of Texans believe it should not be illegal, and maybe they’d acquit you because of that. But if they didn’t you would be convicted of the crime for the rest of your life. You’d be sentenced to some punishment, probably a year and a half of probation, by the court, and that would be that. You’d go the next year and a half taking off work to visit the probation department and peeing in their cup. And you’d go the rest of the way through life a convicted criminal.
Of course the expense of that jury trial would make the $27,000 more like $50,000. And you could be sentenced up to a year in jail, and fined $4000. But that wouldn’t happen, because no one in the entire system thinks cannabis should be illegal, and they all know that it’s bullshit, and that includes the judges.
The View May Indicate the Justice System in Hays County Needs Reform
They all know it’s BS. I know them, and I talk to them, and I can tell you without fear of contradiction that they all know it’s BS.
But it’s not up to them. There is a universal cop-out for everyone working in this system. “But it’s illegal, so…”
Right now in Hays County that is the criminal justice system you’ve been paying for.
The entire thing is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.
And because of this, good people tell me that prohibition of cannabis, the whole arrest, going to court, all of it, is all about making money.
They are shocked when I tell them it’s really about spending money. Spending a lot of Hays County taxpayer money for a result that no one can call justice, and then calling it justice.
If the person had been caught with cannabis, been given a citation to appear next month at the Justice of the Peace, maybe paid a fine and didn’t get in trouble for a while, that might be justice, if cannabis prohibition can ever be just.
When the Texas Legislature, some sunny day in the future, decides to see the light, it will be about money. Big money. We know that other states are collecting billions in taxes with legal cannabis. Until then, Hays County must use its own judgment about how to allocate its sparse criminal justice resources in a fast-growing county. Because for us in Hays, $27,000 is big money when we have to spend it hundreds of times every year over cannabis.
Kelly Higgins Stance on Cannabis Enforcement if Elected to Hays County District Attorney
When I’m elected, I will work with our law enforcement agencies to develop an approach to cannabis that is right for Hays County. I have good ideas for the county. I think I’ll be able to persuade all those officials whose budgets are impacted by the current bad approach. And whether or not there is agreement, in the end, as your DA I will decide whether or not the matter proceeds into court at all. It rattles the local judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers a little bit when I say it, but there won’t be any more simple cannabis possession cases filed in Hays County after I am sworn in in January 2023.
I’m not here to deal with the question of whether cannabis should be legal. It should, and I will vote for candidates who agree. I
am only here to deal with the question of whether you, the people of Hays County, should have to pay $27,000 for Richard Nixon’s cynical dream. Hundreds of times every year.
And I am here to tell you that you should be angry they’ve been squandering your money like this for decades, that they’ve manufactured a criminal class at your expense. And that you should vote for me, Kelly Higgins for Hays County District Attorney, so that it stops.
Recently I was asked how anyone could know I’m telling the truth about this. I guess you can’t really. If you know me, you know I am afraid of only one thing: being embarrassed. And nothing would be more embarrassing to me than making the above statements and then failing to come through for the people of Hays County. I’ve known how stupid cannabis prohibition is since high school. And with every passing year it becomes more absurd, burdensome and expensive.
Thank you,Opinion written by Kelly Higgins, the Democratic Candidate for Hays County District Attorney
A Couple of Our Other Reads
You may be interested in reading about the two candidates for Hays County District Attorney.
Or you may want to find out who were all the candidate that started the election year in Hays County with hopes to be elected and under oath in 2023.
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Categories: The Lone Star Review - State