Woman raises awareness about voluntary pot law

A Dallas woman who says she was once a medical marijuana patient has now made it her calling in life to make a voluntary Texas law the order of the day for police in Dallas County.

That law, called cite and release, allows police to write a ticket rather than take someone to jail for less than two ounces of marijuana.

Yvette Gbalazeh, a University of Houston grad, spends her days educating people about the cite and release law.

“Over the past week, I've spoken to 13 out of the 26 chiefs of police for all the cities in [Dallas] County,” said Gbalazeh.

She’s been asking police and county commissioners to enforce cite and release. The measure passed the legislature in 2007.

Balch Springs police are now trying cite and release.

“You make an arrest on it, then you have to process the marijuana, you have to put it into evidence or into the property room,” said Lt. Mark Maret with the Balch Springs Police Department. “Plus you go back and you have to file the paperwork, your arrest report for our police department, but then you also have to file all the paperwork to file charges though Dallas County.”

The bill was written by former Plano State Rep. Jerry Madden.

“We passed it as a voluntary law,” said Madden. “We knew it would be voluntary and we knew it would take time and we hoped it would just gain strength.”

But it hasn’t.

“Cite and release is a tool that’s been provided by the legislature that we’ve tried in Dallas County and did not find successful,” said Ron Stretcher, Dallas County Director of Criminal Justice. “We found on those cases, 60 percent of the people did not show up for court.”

County Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel says the county is looking at alternatives to jail for low-level offenders, including small amounts of marijuana through its new stepping up initiative.

“Are there certain activities that can happen before a person gets processed into the jail that would better serve not only the inmate, but families and taxpayers?” said Daniel.

Gbalazeh will continue her mission until she says cite and release is in full effect.

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