Fort Worth councilman calls for decriminalizing marijuana possession up to 4 ounces

A Fort Worth councilman wants the city to consider a proposal to decriminalize marijuana possession up to four ounces.               

Those for it say dozens of non-violent offenders are jailed in Fort Worth for small amounts of marijuana, and the majority are Black and Hispanic residents.

Councilman Chris Nettles aims to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in the city of Fort Worth. 

"I want the city of Fort Worth to pass an ordinance that says if you have four ounces or less of marijuana, you’ll be given a civil citation. You’ll be cited, and you’ll be released, meaning you’ll go on your way. You’ll deal with it on the civil side instead of going to jail," he said. 

One of his reasons he says is the number of arrests disproportionately affects minorities.

"The most arrests that were cited in 2021 through 2022 were in East Fort Worth, and that’s where the majority of Black and brown communities live," he said.

An informal report at the city’s work session detailed similar efforts throughout the state and around the country. 

"Some officers do have scales in their cars. I can’t say that every officer has a scale with them as part of their equipment," said Fort Worth Police Chief Neal Noakes.

Also, a fairly new Fort Worth PD policy was explained: how officers currently, at their discretion, can cite and release nonviolent individuals found with up to two ounces of pot.

"These individuals are sitting in jail six months sometimes a year because they sometimes can’t afford an attorney and they have to wait for an appointed attorney," Nettles said.

Nettles says the current policy is rarely being used, and the city’s jail has too many inmates locked up for simple marijuana possession. He points out that between October 2021 and October 2022, Fort Worth officers made 230 marijuana arrests.

"Out of that 230, 16 of those individuals were only cited and released, which means they got a citation and didn’t go to jail. The other 214 went to jail," he explained.

But even if Fort Worth goes further in changing its marijuana policies, the police would still have to follow state and federal drug laws and could not be punished for doing so.

A formal report will follow Tuesday’s discussion including a deeper dive into how the current Fort Worth PD policy is being implemented.

Meantime, Nettles is prepared for resistance to his proposal.   

"There is just a Fort Worth way that they are afraid to get rid of," he said. "And that’s the stigma I’m fighting against."