City Hall

Dallas City Council Kills Marijuana Cite-and-Release

The city of Dallas will not be piloting a cite-and-release program for marijuana possession after all. Wednesday morning, the Dallas City Council shot down a long-in-the-works proposal that would've required Dallas police officers to issue tickets, rather than making arrests, when they discovered Dallas residents with less than four ounces of marijuana.

After cite-and-release seemingly died without a vote from the council in 2014, the potential for a step toward marijuana decriminalization emerged again late last year, with Dallas Police Chief David Brown admitting that cite-and-release was "too damn practical" at a December Public Safety Committee meeting and the mayor voicing limited support for the policy. Philip Kingston, the council's most outspoken supporter of cite-and-release, said allowing those found with pot to stay out of jail as long as they showed up later for court was the least the city could do.

"I'm as transparent about this as I can be. My hope is that this will finally convince DPD to ignore marijuana. That is my goal, that they will ignore marijuana. I know that I don't have the power to legalize the stuff, but I do have the power to correctly allocate criminal justice resources that are under my control so that they aren't spent on pot," he told the Observer in December.

The biggest objection that emerged to cite-and-release, and the one that seemed to be responsible for taking the policy down, was raised Wednesday, as it was at a January council briefing, by Sandy Greyson. Greyson represents parts of Far North Dallas that are in Denton and Collin County. Because those residents reside in a different sheriff's jurisdiction, they would not have been eligible for cite-and-release. The program, which enforces the same potential penalties for marijuana possession as are currently enforced, would only have been available to Dallas residents.

After Brown told the council that Collin and Denton counties would not be joining the potential pilot program, Greyson said Wednesday the unequal application of the law was basically unfair. She wasn't going to vote for the program. Rawlings, despite his initial support for cite-and-release, agreed with Greyson.

“I can’t be voting for things that are [inconsistently applied across the city]," he said.

Others on the council expressed more traditional concerns.

"I have an idea. If you don’t want to be arrested for pot and possession don’t bring it in your car. Leave it at home," Rickey Callahan said. "I would also posit that a lot of what leads to the poverty [of those being arrested for weed possession] is buying the drugs."

Callahan, Rawlings and Greyson were on the winning side of a 10-5 vote against cite-and-release. Kingston, Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Mark Clayton and Lee Kleinman support cite-and-release.
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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