Dallas Marijuana Arrests to Continue After Council Vote

Collin and Denton Counties refused to join ticket and release program

A Dallas Police proposal to only ticket instead of jail people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana was rejected at City Hall Wednesday in a 10 to 5 City Council vote.

Councilman Rickey Callahan issued a warning.

"If you don't want to be arrested for pot possession, simply don't possess it when you're in a motor vehicle. Smoke it at home," he said.

The so called "Cite and Release" program, first suggested last year, would have been a six-month test to see what results it produced.

Supporters said arrests for something that has become widely accepted leave suspects with a lifelong criminal record and the high expense of jail and court.

Police initially supported the idea to potentially save the time it takes to arrest and jail a suspect for the relatively minor offense. Precious police resources could be devoted to more serious crimes and faster response to calls. 

But several problems led to the program's defeat.

The city of Dallas is located in more than just Dallas County. Police Chief David Brown said Dallas Police recorded only about 50 marijuana possession cases in Denton and Collin counties the past year and Collin and Denton prosecutors refused to go along with the change to cite and release.

"They shared with us it would just not be financially feasible to set up a system for such a small number of arrests," Brown said.

Dallas Councilman Philip Kingston strongly supported the program, despite the concerns over Denton and Collin counties.

"Their protestations that it will cost more to implement the program is bunk. Those people are lying," Kingston said.

Kingston and Councilman Scott Griggs said Dallas should demonstrate the benefits by launching the program in Dallas County, but other council members objected to arresting Dallas residents in some areas but not others.

"I have never seen the council vote intentionally for any program that would discriminate against some members of our city based on where they live," Council Member Sandy Greyson said.

Brown said he was persuaded to oppose the program for that reason and also because marijuana arrests can be leverage for charges in bigger crimes.

"We've had double murders in marijuana houses – drug houses – and that's one piece of evidence," Brown said.

Dallas violent crime is sharply higher this year, and Brown said police need every tool available for making arrests in those crimes, including the option to arrest people for marijuana possession.

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