New Weed Possession Policy In Texas Reveals Racial Bias

Is “cite and release” a bust?
Data Shows Racial Bias in Miami-Dade, Florida Marijuana Arrests

Officials in Dallas, Texas recently made some changes to how the city enforces weed laws. But new stats suggest that the city’s new possession policy may not actually produce any meaningful change. In particular, this new weed possession policy in Texas reveals racial bias directly in step with historical trends, both in Dallas and in the state more generally.

New Possession Policy

The new possession policy in Dallas changes the process immediately when a person is busted with weed. In the past, offenders caught with cannabis would be arrested and taken to jail. They would have to post bail to be released and then wait until their case went to court. This process was time-consuming and often very disruptive to the lives of anyone arrested for weed.

To simplify the process, the city came up with a new “cite-and-release” program. Now, when cops bust someone for weed, they no longer take the offender to jail and make them post bail. Instead, cops write a citation and let the person go. The citation includes the offender’s court date.

Basically, the only thing that changes is that initial short period in jail. Now, instead of waiting in jail to get a court date, or posting bail and waiting for a court date, people caught with weed are given a court date right away.

Nothing else changes. The state’s heavyhanded anti-cannabis laws remain fully enforceable. That means that a person caught with 2 ounces or less can face up to a $2,000 fine and as much as six months in jail. A person caught with between two and four ounces can face fines up to $4,000 and up to a year behind bars.

Racial Bias Persists

The other thing this new policy does not appear to change is the racially disparate way that weed laws are enforced, both in Dallas and in Texas as a whole.

This week, the first set of stats for the city’s new program were released. These numbers reveal that Dallas cops wrote 23 citations for cannabis possession. Every single one of them was issued to a person of color, either black or Latinx.

“The stats confirm something that I’ve been saying for a long time,” Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston told local media. “Marijuana is already legal in the city of Dallas as long as you’re white.”

Unfortunately, this disparity is fully in step with broader historical trends.

In 2013, the ACLU found that across the nation, black people are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana. But both groups consume weed at roughly the same rates. In Texas, black people are 2.3 times more likely to be arrested on weed-related charges than white people.

A 2016 report on marijuana arrests in Dallas revealed similar trends. It found that black and Latinx people combined make up 91.12 percent of all marijuana arrests in the city. White people make up 25.49 percent of the Dallas population. But they account for only 8.8 percent of marijuana arrests.

Final Hit: New Weed Possession Policy In Texas Reveals Racial Bias

Dallas’s new policy may make the burden of anti-weed laws a little bit lighter. But whatever small amount of change this new policy may make is buried beneath the ongoing problem of racially biased laws and law enforcement.

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