Plano Police Chief Ed Drain issued a new order effective this week that directs officers to issue citations for possession of small amounts of marijuana instead of making arrests.
Drain's new order restricts an officer's discretion when a person is in possession of fewer than two ounces of pot -- unless that person is also suspected of firearm offenses.
According to the police department, this change came about because "There is a disparity in African-Americans' arrests for possession of minor amounts of marijuana compared to Whites, even though national drug use surveys show Whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics use marijuana at similar rates. This disparity in arrest data also contributed to the change in policy," said the department.
The officers will now issue citations for possession of drug paraphernalia which will be a Class C misdemeanor.
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With the change, offenders will still be held accountable for having possession of marijuana but the accountability will change from the county courts to municipal courts.
One of the reasons for the decision was due to a change in the Texas law in 2019 that requires marijuana to be tested to determine THC content before cases are accepted for prosecution, said the department.
Agencies will have to pay for commercial labs to conduct the THC test since the Department of Public Safety doesn't test for THC content in misdemeanor marijuana cases.
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Marijuana arrests in Plano have gone down considerably in 2020 to help keep the jail from overcrowding due to the pandemic. If marijuana arrests in Plano return to how it was post-pandemic, the cost of testing marijuana would be between $35,000 and $40,000 a year.
The disparity seen in arrest data helped contribute to the change in the marijuana policy after Drain and his staff did a detailed review of marijuana arrest cost and trends in November 2020.
Drain then decided to issue the policy change effective on Monday.