Getting busted for weed in Dallas is nothing to fuck with.
I speak from experience, having family there that I visit while being very aware that my cannabis activities could easily result in seriously unpleasant dealings with Texas law enforcement.
But a recent announcement from the Dallas County District Attorney may change that, and his reasoning demonstrates insightful thinking on the subject of how cannabis arrests affect not only the offender, but the community at large as well.
High Times reports that John Creuzot, the recently elected Dallas County DA, has announced that his office will no longer continue prosecution of small first time cannabis related misdemeanors.
Creuzot is a progressive who ran on a platform that promised to address a number of issues to help reduce the number of prosecutions.
Last year, 67,000 people ran through the Dallas jail system, the nation’s seventh largest.
That’s a tremendous number for a city of 1.3 million, of which 25 percent are black.
In the memo outlining his new policy directives, Creuzot stated
“Although African Americans and people of other races use marijuana at similar rates, in Dallas County African Americans are three times more likely to be prosecuted for misdemeanor marijuana possession than are people of other races.
After arrest, African Americans are assessed money bond at a higher rate for marijuana possession, and are assessed higher bond amounts than other races.
African Americans are more likely to be convicted of marijuana possession once charged and are more likely to serve a jail sentence.”
Creuzot went on to say that since taking office late last year, he has dismissed more than 1,000 cannabis-related misdemeanor cases.
Everything in Texas is bigger, including the number of pointless arrests for possession of less than two ounces of cannabis.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety has released numbers stating that around 379,000 residents have been arrested in the last five years for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Their detainment and prosecution costs the state $730 million each year.” Moving forward, prosecutors in Dallas will address future offenses with a diversion program which if completed would erase the charge.
It’s been discussed how a felony possession charge can wreak havoc with an individual’s life and options, but a lesser misdemeanor cannabis charge can do the same, based on the deeply screwed-up cash bail system.
Creuzot addressed that as well, stating, “Our current system is uncoupled from physical safety and fairness, as people sit in jail not because they pose an identifiable danger to the community, but because they cannot pay their fee to go home. When low-income people are held in jail simply because they cannot afford a few hundred dollars, they lose their jobs, housing, stability, and cannot take care of their children: this makes our communities less safe.”