Marijuana Cite and Release
What is the new Cite and Release policy?
On December 1st, Dallas County implemented a city-wide “cite and release” policy that directly affects those arrested in Dallas for possession of marijuana (pot, weed, dope, etc.) that is less than 4 ounces. Rather than arresting an individual for possession of marijuana, the new policy allows police officers to cite, fingerprint, confiscate the marijuana and then release the individual without him/her serving immediate jail time. After receiving the citation, the individual will still be prosecuted criminally and will have to appear in front of Judge Nancy Mulder, who is the chair of the committee for this program.
Who is eligible?
What are the pros?
This policy streamlines the process of charging an individual for possession of marijuana without the difficulty of arresting the person. The consequences of arresting an individual for a misdemeanor marijuana charge has dire consequences such as paying for bond, losing their job, and paying for their car to be taken out of the impound. This especially has a negative effect on poor minorities. The cite and release policy allow officers to issue citations that act as court notices. This allows officers to police the use of marijuana without having to arrest numerous individuals daily. Under this new policy, Dallas police officers may cite anywhere from 30 to 35 individuals a month. Those are 30 to 35 fewer bodies taking up space in the already crowded Dallas County jail.
What are the cons?
Although this is a step in the right direction, the policy is not fool-proof. As aforementioned, the policy does not legalize marijuana. Anything under 4 ounces is still a misdemeanor Class A or Class B charge and will be prosecuted as such. The citation is not merely a traffic ticket but more of a notice of court appearance, and if you do not appear in court, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
The policy does not mean that marijuana is decriminalized. In the state of Texas, possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 180 days in jail with a fine up to $2,000. Possession of marijuana between 2 or 4 ounces is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.
Most importantly, the policy only applies to arrests made in Dallas County. Other cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex have not implemented this policy, so individuals who are a mile outside of Dallas County lines are still at risk of serving jail time for getting caught with marijuana less than 4 ounces.
This policy is slightly deceptive. Dallas has not legalized or decriminalized marijuana. People do not have free reign to purchase or smoke marijuana as they wish. The program merely eliminates jail time for some individuals in Dallas County only.