In one Texas city, starting on Dec. 1, 2017, people who would have been taken to jail for marijuana possession in the past are now cited and released. From Dec. 1 to May 7, there were 56 citations in Dallas. Of those people cited, 24 were Hispanic and 27 were black.

A traffic stop was the first point of contact with police in around 45 percent of the cases. The next most common was a call for service at 29 percent. Just 10 contacts that resulted in citations were initiated by police while five occurred because of a report through the city’s system for drug complaints.

One city council member who supported the measure said he had hoped police would no longer enforce low-level offenses involving marijuana and that the new policy could have been a step toward de facto decriminalization. He said the current Democratic nominee for district attorney will not prosecute marijuana possession misdemeanors and will probably expunge people’s records. A statement from the Dallas police chief said the policy is fair as it is enforced and that no particular race is targeted. The statement also said the use and sale of marijuana is a quality of life issue and that it targets high crime neighborhoods.

A drug charge can be serious, and people who are facing drug charges might want to talk to an attorney. Consequences could include jail time, but they could also affect their career or other aspects of their lives such as the ability to get some types of housing or financial aid for education. They should not assume that possessing only a small amount of a drug or being a juvenile automatically means the situation is not a serious one.

Source: Dallas Observer, “Here’s Why People In Dallas Are Getting Cited-and-Released for Marijuana Possession“, Stephen Young, May 22, 2018