It’s said that “the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas“. If you happen to live in Dallas, Texas, you might be able to enjoy those stars a little bit more. Cannabis helps many people slow down, feel better, and enjoy life. Unfortunately, some places still support draconian federal cannabis prohibition. In these sad, outdated places, cannabis can still land you in a heap of trouble. In the state of Oklahoma, which neighbors Texas, medical patients are allowed to have 3 oz. of cannabis flower in their possession. Currently, in the state of Texas, 3 oz. of cannabis would be a misdemeanor charge that carries a max fine of up to $4,000 and one year incarceration. An invisible line between Oklahoma and Texas determines whether or not you can have cannabis.
Thankfully, some people are acknowledging the wrongs of the past and looking at ways to apply positive cannabis reform. Texas has started to see a shift of support towards cannabis legalization. In Dallas, Texas police chief Eddie Garcia has made a proposal to the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee requesting that Dallas police officers no longer arrest or cite most individuals who have 2 oz of cannabis or less in their possession.
The Finer Details of Putting an End to Arrests
The first thing that stood out to me was the phrasing of most individuals. Does this mean that arresting someone for cannabis would be at an officer’s discretion? Digging a little bit deeper, it turns out that the proposal would exclude certain situations. You would still be subject to arrest for having two ounces or less if officers believed you were in possession with intent to distribute, if they found empty baggies, digital scales, saw you make a hand-to-hand distribution of cannabis, or if you were in possession of a firearm.
The Dallas police chief has statistics to go with his proposal showing that Dallas officers arrested 1,996 people in the first three weeks of February. 80% of the people arrested were charged with possession of less than 2 oz. If the proposal is approved by the city council Public Safety Committee, it would greatly reduce the amount of time Dallas police officers would spend citing and arresting people for personal possession of cannabis. This would allow Dallas PD to focus its efforts and attention on other much-needed areas such as violent crime. With nearly 2,000 people arrested in three weeks in Dallas alone, I think that says something about Texans’ support for cannabis.
Following in the Footsteps of Austin
The move by Dallas Police is similar to what people in Austin experienced back in 2020. In 2020, the Austin Police Department announced, “APD will no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for class A or class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so as part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony.”
This didn’t sit well with the Austin Police Chief, who said that despite the council’s decision that he would continue enforcing the law. The council had banned the police department from accessing city funds in order to conduct lab testing on cannabis which is a necessity in putting together a case against an individual.
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It didn’t take long for someone to come and set him straight. Just days after the Austin Police Chief said he would go against the city council’s decision, he released an announcement saying;
“After reviewing the current protocols for handling marijuana cases at all of the relevant County and district courts and attorney offices and/or conferring with representatives from those perspective entities, APD has revised our marijuana enforcement policies to comply with council’s resolution and align with the present practices within the local judicial system.”
Imagine that a public servant is actually doing what they’re told to do and not running with a private agenda. If only this type of thinking was more contagious these days, we might finally see an end to the ridiculous continued federal prohibition of cannabis.
The Larger Picture of Cannabis in Texas
According to NORML, a prominent cannabis advocacy organization, there have been roughly 2 dozen cannabis reform bills introduced in the state of Texas. These include measures that could expand medical cannabis access in the state beyond CBD, legalize an adult retail market, and increase the THC limitations in the currently allowed CBD products. However, only time will tell how these will hold up in the legislation. Luckily while there isn’t large support among lawmakers for full legalization, there does seem to be bipartisan support for expanding medical access in the Lone Star state. While that is definitely something worth celebrating, there is much work to be done in order for Texans to truly have freedom when it comes to cannabis.
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