Smarter approaches to cannabis seem to be in vogue right now, but a small town in Texas is ramping up the war on marijuana. The town in question is Mart, and the chief of police seems to have a vendetta against weed. And the people who consume it. Here’s what’s happening:
(Tumble)Weed In Texas
In Texas, police have considerable discretion with how they deal with people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana. They can, under a 2007 law, issue that person a citation.
This is what police will be doing in Dallas, where possession of less than four ounces of cannabis will result in entry into a “cite-and-release” program. Similar efforts are underway in San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. Ramping up the war on marijuana is seemingly not on the agenda in these cities.
Nearly every major city in the state is choosing not to automatically derail someone’s life over minuscule amounts of marijuana. Sending them to jail, having their car towed, forcing them to miss work, potentially losing their job and their home, and ending up on the street doesn’t seem to have much appeal.
Such leniency ends at the city limits of Mart, a town of about 2,000 souls outside of Waco.
Police Chief Paul Cardenas has declared an all-out war on marijuana. He has instructed his police officers to greet “any usable amount” of cannabis with an arrest and a trip to jail. No exceptions, no excuses and no prisoners. Wait, strike that last one. Lots of prisoners!
Up until now, Mart police officers had the discretion to punish possession with a citation and orders to appear in front of a judge later. Although, there aren’t very many police officers. At “full strength,” Mart’s safety is guarded by three people in addition to Cardenas. By the way, Cardenas has been a cop for less than five years and has served as chief since 2015.
This modest, ever-so-slight relaxation of Texas’s notoriously punitive drug laws led to something of an attitude shift around Mart. People were acting like they didn’t have to go to jail just because they had some weed. And Cardenas didn’t like it one bit.
“Suspects know that if they carry two ounces or less, they will tell you to ‘go ahead and write me a ticket,’” the very in-control chief told the Waco Tribune. “When you are in charge of the public safety of your community, that changes your mind, and we can’t have that attitude in our city.”
“At this point, right now, that is the only stand I can take,” said Cardenas. He also cited his service in the U.S. Army as a reason to ramp up the War on Drugs. There, he worked as an “intelligence analyst” in Baghdad.
‘Half Of All Arrests’
Cardenas was true to his word. Half of the arrests made in Mart through the first two weeks of November were for drug-related offenses. There were four arrests total. So, two arrests were for drugs. Through the first 10 months of the year, Mart cops issued 44 citations, which resulted in fines. Some of those fines went unpaid—which, in the chief’s estimation, is all the more reason to start arresting people.
Following the publication of the Tribune story, Cardenas’s office issued a meandering yet defiant clarification. Sure, other narcotics and even synthetic cannabis are present in Mart, but it really does appear it was all that back talk that got Cardenas’s goat and forced him to show us all who’s boss.
Mart does have something of a history of ramping up the war on marijuana.
Prior to Cardenas’s term, police went into a public housing unit to arrest someone for about an ounce of cannabis. Something—maybe the approach—didn’t quite sit too well with the citizenry, who reacted with a near-riot. Mart cops had to plea with other local authorities for backup. The chief in charge at that time was later demoted to patrolman after police presented dozens of cases to the district attorney that were too weak to prosecute.
Final Hit: This Tiny Texas Town Is Ramping Up The War On Marijuana
Cardenas has at least some like-minded sympathizers in the immediate vicinity. Over in Waco, police are also treating weed as if it were toxic.
“[Marijuana possession] is illegal, and until the state law changes, we are going to enforce the state law,” Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton told the Waco Tribune. “If it is a usable amount up to two ounces, it is a Class B misdemeanor, and we will put you in jail on a Class B misdemeanor.”
Yet some other local police officers are, in the most delicate way possible, wondering exactly what’s wrong with Cardenas’s head.
“We can take anyone to jail for any usable amounts of marijuana, but we try to just use common sense and our best judgment in making those decisions,” said Jim Devlin. He’s the chief of police in nearby Hewitt. Hewitt appears to be the safest and sanest jurisdiction in the area.
“One of those decisions is to try to help keep beds free for higher status offenses at the county jail, but every city is different and every city faces different issues,” Devlin continued.
In Mart’s case, the issues appear to be personal ones with the man the town has entrusted with enforcing the law equally and fairly. Beware the City of Mart. Cardenas seems to be serious about ramping up the war on marijuana.