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Friedman Says He'd Legalize Pot in Texas

MICHAEL GRACZYK / AP | September 15 2006

Kinky Friedman says he favors legalizing marijuana to keep nonviolent users out of prison. If Texas elects him governor, he says, he'll try to get locked-up pot users released to make room for more violent criminals.

"I think that's long overdue," Friedman told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. "I think everybody knows what (U.S. Sen.) John McCain said is right: We've pretty well lost the war on drugs doing it the way we're doing it. Drugs are more available and cheaper than ever before. What we're doing is not working."

Friedman, the often irreverent singer, entertainer and mystery writer, is running as an independent in a bid to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Perry, and he's getting some serious attention.

He said he'd take a closer look at the use of the death penalty in Texas, wants to clean house on the state's board and commissions and would dump public school assessment tests, even if it costs the state federal money.

On the death penalty, he said he would be more liberal with the governor's authority to grant a one-time 30-day reprieve to condemned killers.

"I would be careful killing a guy," he said. "I think there are people who need to die, but the question I've asked mostly is: When was the last time we've executed a rich man in Texas?"

He bristled at the criticism heaped on him after he called some Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Houston "crackheads and thugs."

Friedman said Wednesday that his plan to give $100 million to Houston to hire more police "was not in any way racist."

"How can you possibly regret that, telling the truth?" he asked. "I am not a racist, I am a realist. In looking at the statistics, I know that 20 percent of the homicides in Houston have been committed by the element in the evacuee population.

"I never said what color their skin was. I never said all evacuees are crack dealers or crackheads. I'm smarter than that."

Also in the race for governor are Democrat Chris Bell, Libertarian James Werner and another independent, Carole Strayhorn, the state comptroller who won that office as a Republican.

As for Friedman, he said he doesn't like being called a politician.

"I don't mind being called a flip-flopper," he said, a description Perry's campaign has placed on him. "I think we actually could use a flip-flopper as governor because a flip-flopper is a human being open to change, and God knows change is what we need now."

He acknowledged that the Texas governor's authority is limited compared with executives in other states but said he would use the bully pulpit to cajole legislators. He doesn't trust them, he said, adding: "I do not trust the media either."

"Right now the lobbyists are leading us. We have a lack of leadership, a vacuum," he said.

One of the Texas governor's few powerful roles is in appointing state board members, and Friedman said he would replace as many as he could, including regents at the University of Texas and Texas A&M.

"You clean house," he said. "You get the old farts out of there. You put a bunch of young people in and you put a bunch of people who care about Texas. It's pretty simple."

If he wins _ most polls show Perry leading in the race but not running away with it _ Friedman said one of the first calls he'd make as governor would be to Robert Muhammad, head of the Nation of Islam in Houston, who he said "the Lord put in my path at the Austin airport earlier this year."

"He's a very visionary man," Friedman said. "You would think we're at opposite poles, but we're not. That's the guy I would tap. I would tap him to help us get those gangsters and thugs and crackheads out of there."

 

 

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