City Hall

Coming Weed Cite-and-Release Pilot Program Won't Cover the Whole City

It looks like the only thing that's standing in the way of the Dallas Police Department and citing-and-releasing people in possession of marijuana is a formal vote. Wednesday, the full Dallas City Council was briefed on the issue for the first time, and after the meeting, it was clear that the majority of the council supports cite-and-release.

Most members of the council expressed a willingness to support cite-and-release as part of a six-month pilot program. There was some opposition, specifically from District 12 representative Sandy Greyson and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, to the fact that the plan will not be comprehensive for the city.

As presented by DPD top brass including Police Chief David Brown, possessors of misdemeanor amounts of weed in most parts of Dallas will not be arrested, as long as they aren't caught committing another crime simultaneous with their possession. The penalties for misdemeanor weed possession — potentially six months in jail and a $2,000 fine — remain the same, but the initial jail booking is replaced by a ticket and a summons to return for a later court date. The department estimates that cite-and-release could save them about 30 minutes on each of the approximately 120 marijuana possession arrests DPD makes each month.

Some members of the council, like Scott Griggs, Lee Kleinman and Philip Kingston, expressed a desire to go even further. They want to move as far as possible toward decriminalization at the municipal level. "The prohibition on marijuana in the United States is a relic of the Nixon administration," Kingston said. "It has comprehensively ruined the lives of [primarily minority] young men who went to jail for no freakin' reason."

Because of the way the state law that allows cite-and-release is written, DPD can only cite-and-release people within the borders of Dallas County. It can't do the same in the portions of Dallas that seep into Collin, Denton and Rockwall Counties. That irked Greyson, who represents many of the sections of Far North Dallas that are not in Dallas County.

"You’re not treating everyone in the city of Dallas the same. I can’t accept that," she told Brown.

Rawlings, after expressing his frustration with the failing of the American criminal justice system as it has fought the war on drugs, said he would also not vote for the pilot program because it would not cover the entire city. 

The only significant opposition to ticketing for pot came from Pleasant Grove's Rick Callahan, who trotted out some truly interesting rhetoric. "[Not jailing people caught in possession] creates an incorrigible society that leads to anarchy," he said. "We’ve got to where we are in 2016 because we don’t punish anybody with more than a slap on the wrist."

Brown was directed to talk with sheriffs in surrounding counties to see if they'd be willing to sign on to cite-and-release. Whether than happens or not, there are already enough votes on the council to get the program moving, whenever it comes back for a final vote.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young