Local judge weighs in on decriminalizing marijuana for teens

"You gotta understand where we are at," Judge Jessie Contreras said. "This is Hidalgo County, one of the poorest counties in the nation."

Judge Contreras sees mostly juvenile offenders in the 449th District Court.

He said because of the Valley's proximity to Mexico and the types of crimes prone to the area, he handles drug cases carefully.

"This area is saturated with drugs, no doubt about it," he said.

He is weighing in after hearing recent comments made by Texas Governor Rick Perry regarding softening penalties on juveniles who commit marijuana offenses.

"Allow young people whose lives would be destroyed forever if they went into the prison system an opportunity to expunge their records, and after a period of time, to walk back into society, actually to stay in society," Perry said at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Judge Contreras questions how this would affect juveniles he see's everyday in Hidalgo County.

"If there going to be flexibility on the adult level, theres going to have to be flexibility on the juvenile level on specific cases,"

He's talking about teen smugglers, his court see's a lot of them.

"Most of the kids coming before my court over 2 thousand pounds of marijuana, there lives have been threatened, their families have been threatened and they are not even getting paid," he said.

Instead of sending them straight to a detention center for the rest of their teenage years, he thinks more options should be available.

"The whole core of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate," he said.

Judge Contreras added that his court is seeing less misdemeanor marijuana cases and more prescription drug cases.

He said he has never had a case where a teen was caught committing crimes under the influence of pot.

"It's always alcohol or another hard drug," he said.