On April 12, the Dallas City Council passed “cite and release” in a ten-to-five vote.
As of Oct. 1, carrying less than four ounces of marijuana in Dallas County can result in a citation and court summons as opposed to an automatic arrest.
Cite and release has the potential to benefit marginalized groups who are disproportionately affected by marijuana laws. However, there are serious misconceptions surrounding the policy that DFW residents should bear in mind.
According to Texas state law, one can face up to a 180- day sentence and $2,000 in fines for possession of less than two ounces, which is a Class B misdemeanor. For the possession of two to four ounces, which is a Class A misdemeanor, one can face up to a one year sentence and $4,000 in fines.
It is no secret that people of color are pulled over, searched and arrested at high rates in the US. An ACLU report found that people of color are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite nearly equal rates of marijuana use across the board. Simultaneously, KRWG reports that as of 2015, 97 percent of marijuana-related arrests in Texas were for less than two ounces.
Low-income individuals are disproportionately affected by marijuana laws as well. Realistically speaking, a $2,000 fine has a much lesser effect on a financially well-off individual who can afford a decent attorney than it does on a person of low socioeconomic status who must make decisions between paying fines, paying rent and providing for their kids.
Hopefully cite and release will serve to alleviate some of this inequity. However, dangerous misconceptions have been circulating about what cite and release means for the legal status of marijuana. (in Dallas)
Because a citation can be written, community members and news sources have implied that marijuana possession will become a Class C offense, similar to a traffic ticket. The Dallas Observer affirms that this is not the case and that the policy merely removes the legal requirement for automatic arrest. Furthermore, failing to appear in court under the cite and release program is an automatic Class A misdemeanor, according to The Observer.
Cite and release does not in any way decriminalize or legalize marijuana in Dallas County, nor does it alter the severity in classification of marijuana possession.
What do you think about the cite and release program? What sort of unintended consequences might we begin to see come Oct. 1? Contact us to voice your opinion in The Lasso.