PLANO, Texas - Police in the city of Plano will no longer arrest most people caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana.
Chief Ed Drain recently ordered his officers to stop making arrests for Class B Marijuana Possession except in cases where the suspect is also charged with a firearm-related offense.
Instead, the officers may give out tickets for the Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, which is a Class C Misdemeanor.
"With this policy change, offenders are still held accountable for small amounts of marijuana, except the accountability has changed from the county courts to the municipal courts," the Plano Police Department said.
The department said the change is mainly the result of the 2019 law that legalized hemp in Texas.
When police arrest someone suspected of marijuana possession, the evidence must be tested to determine its THC content before the case can be prosecuted.
Local police departments are responsible for the cost of those tests in misdemeanor cases.
"Marijuana arrests in Plano were down considerably in 2020 to help relieve jail overcrowding due to the pandemic. Should marijuana arrests in Plano return to post-pandemic levels, the cost for testing marijuana would be in the range of $35,000 -$40,000 annually," Plano PD said.
Chief Drain also hopes the policy change will help with the disparity in arrest data.
He said there are far more Black people being arrested in Plano for the possession of small amounts of marijuana than other races, even though national drug use surveys show all races use marijuana at a similar rate.
Dallas County approved a similar cite and release policy in 2017 for people caught with less than 4 ounces of pot in an attempt to try to save taxpayers’ money and keep officers on the streets for more serious crimes.
After hemp was legalized in the state, a Dallas councilman began pushing to decriminalize less than 2 ounces of marijuana in the city because the law made it so expensive for municipalities to prosecute those possession charges.
Austin and other Texas cities have already decriminalized small amounts of pot.