DALLAS – A major culture change is coming to Dallas. The Dallas City Council voted on Wednesday to move ahead with a cite-and-release program for marijuana.
If you’re caught with less than 4 ounces of marijuana and live in Dallas County, you will receive a citation and a court summons.
The ordinance was made possible by a 2007 state law that gave municipalities the flexibility to allow certain low-level misdemeanors to be handled via a ticket and not an arrest and a trip to jail.
Things were heated at times during the lengthy debate, but the measure passed with a 10-to-5 vote. This is the second time the city considered a program for low-level offenders and some in council, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, tried to delay it again Wednesday.
The final push to get it done came from council members Tiffinni Young and Philip Kingston, who has been pushing for this change for years.
“This is something good,” Kingston said. “Being responsible with public safety dollars means ignoring low-level marijuana possession.”
Supporters said it with give an understaffed police department more time to deal with major crimes. Both sides passionately addressed the council.
“This is not an endorsement about whether you are for or against marijuana,” said Brittany White of Faith In Texas. “This was about a law that was created only to be beneficial to certain communities, and they aren’t black, and they aren’t brown and they are not poor."
There are small portions of the city of Dallas that extend into Collin, Denton, Rockwall and Kaufman counties. Those jurisdictions are not participating.
The vote on Wednesday quickly resonated outside of Dallas.
David Sloane, a Fort Worth based attorney specializing in marijuana possession defense, says the ordinance covers a variety of low-level crimes, but will have the most notable impact on minor drug cases.
"Far and away this is a good program for the citizens of Dallas and it’s certainly a cost effective measure for the citizens of Dallas," Sloane said.
Sgt. Michael Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association spoke out against the ordinance.
"I think it's probably bad for police," Mata said.
The DPA says its concern the amount of marijuana someone could possess without facing arrest.
"Four ounces, that’s not a marijuana cigarette," Mata said.. "That’s not a little bitty baggy.”
The measure, which does not decriminalize marijuana possession, is set to take effect October 1.
Similar programs started in Austin and Houston earlier this year.
After the vote, Dallas police tweeted a reminder that possession of marijuana in drug-free zones like schools is not eligible for cite-and-release.
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