On Friday, Dallas — Texas’ third largest city — implemented a policy that instructs police officers to issue citations and a summons to appear in court, rather than arresting those found in possession of marijuana. This new policy will spare people an initial trip to jail, which is a step in the right direction. However, individuals still face all the same criminal penalties, including up to six months in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, and a lasting criminal record.
In Texas, a criminal record carries the following collateral consequences:
-Hindered access to employment
-Diminished educational opportunities
-Impeded housing options
-Jeopardized parental rights
-Suspended drivers license (six months)
-Obstructed right to self defense/ license to carry (five years)
To see meaningful changes to marijuana laws in Texas, we must change the unreasonable statewide policies that allow for such harsh penalties.
If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators now in support of more reasonable penalties for marijuana possession.
Today, the City Council of Chicago voted 43-3 to amend the city’s code to direct police officers to cite, rather than arrest, individuals in possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana. Under the proposal, which has the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police could still arrest those who cannot produce identification or present a threat to public safety. Those cited would face fines of $200 to $500 dollars and up to 10 hours of community service; however, there would be no risk of jail time.
Passage of the measure means that adults in possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer be arrested or saddled with criminal records that can make it harder to obtain employment, housing, and student loans. The ordinance will also allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, like the city’s soaring murder rate, while conserving limited police resources. Violent crime has become a serious concern in Chicago, with homicides up 38% over the last year.
Chicago now joins over 90 other localities in Illinois and 15 other states across the nation in removing criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession. Since enacting laws replacing arrest and jail with fines for such violations, there has been no appreciable increase in marijuana use in those areas, either among adults or young people. The move follows a recent trend in marijuana reforms, including a similar penalty reform in Rhode Island and medical marijuana legislation in Connecticut this May and June. Legislative chambers in New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey also approved marijuana policy reforms in recent weeks. This trend reflects growing public consensus that harsh marijuana laws are ineffective, and scarce law enforcement resources should not be used to arrest adults for using a substance safer than alcohol.
If only President Obama's former colleagues, like his good friend the Mayor of Chicago, could convince him that people are ready for real marijuana policy change, and that we need it more than ever.
Well, another celebrity was arrested for using marijuana. Do you feel safer?
R&B singer Robin Thicke was arrested today near Madison Square Garden when they saw him smoking a joint inside an SUV. He was ticketed and released.
Now, since police actually witnessed him smoking, this arrest is far more legitimate than the improper marijuana possession arrests of tens of thousands of New York City residents during “stop and frisk” actions.
Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized in New York, and criminal charges should only be brought if the marijuana is openly displayed or used in public, which was the case here. Recently, however, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had to issue a directive to the NYPD to actually obey the law and stop tricking people into pulling their marijuana out of their pockets to warrant a criminal charge.
The fact remains that arresting Robin Thicke for misdemeanor marijuana possession does not make the community safer. While police were busy arresting a non-violent entertainer (and having him sign autographs), a crime with an actual victim most likely went unseen and unpunished.