Apr 20, 2022 - News

Police in Dallas County still making marijuana arrests despite DA policy

Illustration of three hands holding marijuana leaves, one hand belongs to a Black person.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Police in Dallas County are still arresting people for low-level marijuana possession, despite District Attorney John Creuzot's promise not to prosecute first-time marijuana possession cases.

Why it matters: Black people are more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Dallas County, SMU's Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center found in a three-part study.

  • A vast majority of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases filed with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office are rejected each year, including 321 class B cases since January.

Flashback: Creuzot announced when he came into office in 2019 that his office wouldn’t prosecute these cases, in part to reduce the racial disparities seen in the arrests.

Zoom out: The House passed a bill this month to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, which would also allow for some marijuana convictions to be expunged.

  • Los Angeles County — where recreational marijuana is legal — dismissed about 60,000 marijuana convictions last year in an attempt to undo some of the damage caused by the war on drugs.

Zoom in: Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia put into effect a new marijuana enforcement policy on April 19, 2021, which said officers should not charge anyone found with less than 2 ounces of marijuana for recreational use, with some caveats, such as if the person has a gun.

  • Officers have been following the procedure since it was implemented, the department said in a statement. The policy was enacted in part "to reduce the burden on police resources."

By the numbers: DPD has filed 680 class B misdemeanor cases for marijuana possession since then, according to numbers provided by the DA’s office. The office accepted three of those cases.

  • In 2021, all law enforcement agencies in Dallas County filed 2,442 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases with the DA's office, which rejected 2,005 of them.

The big picture: A Gallup poll in November of last year had 68% of Americans supporting full legalization of marijuana, up from 34% in 2001.


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