Texas motorists busted for low-level drug possession, most of which likely involved marijuana, have been labeled “high threat criminals,” according to a new report from the folks at the Associated Press.
It seems the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) considers some 1,800 minor offenders, all ranging from drug possession cases to failure to pay child support, a major threat in the grand scheme of public and homeland security.
The data, which has been used by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign to gain support for a wall separating the U.S./Mexico border, finds that people busted holding a little weed and other recreational substances have been tossed into the same category as murderers, rapists and sex traffickers.
Interestingly, these statistics played a role in the allocation of $1 billion last year to be used to strengthen the border.
“It’s deceptive to say the least,” said Democratic Representative Terry Canales about the DPS data. “I would say it’s shocking that a person arrested with a small amount of cocaine in Odessa is used to show supposedly high-threat criminal arrests on the Texas-Mexico border.”
However, the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Associated Press that the “high threat” data was never intended to gauge border safety.
In 2013, the agency defined high-threat criminals as being “individuals whose criminal activity poses a serious public safety or homeland security threat.” Yet, there is nothing about the information that distinguishes between drug traffickers and those people simply busting for holding small amounts of a controlled substance.
In the eyes of the DPS, all of these crimes are the same.
“In El Paso County, more than half of 190 high-threat arrests last year were for drug offenses. Of those, about three in 10 were arrests for less than a gram of drugs such as cocaine or small amounts of marijuana,” the report reads. In Hidalgo County, “about 1 in 5” of the more than 160 high-threat drug possession arrests involved people caught with less than a single gram.
In the United States, the majority of all drug possession arrests involve marijuana. Nearly 90 percent of the people convicted of low-level drug offenses are simply caught in possession of weed, according to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance.