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Low-Level Marijuana Offenders “Pay The Rent” For Law Enforcement


texas marijuana arrests cannabis police copsIn Texas Monthly, there is a great article on the subject of “trace cases” that quotes Former DA Pat Lykos’ presentation at the Baker Institute that I was a part of in 2012:

To help explain her reasoning, at an appearance at Rice University’s Baker Institute, she held up a package of Splenda, which weighs approximately one gram. She and her predecessors had been prosecuting people for less than 1/100th of that amount. “Sometimes they had a little flake extruding from their nose, a little flake [on a shirt collar]or on a crack pipe. We had thousands of cases clogging up our dockets, and that meant thousands of people overcrowding the jail.”

Beyond that, she argued that the policy helped police make better use of their time “When someone is arrested for a trace case, that officer is out of service for two to three hours,” she said. “That neighborhood is unprotected for two to three hours. Officers are getting time-and-a-half to fight the drug war, and this is their drug-war arrest, time-and-a-half to go to court. So the union bosses are not happy with me.”

But it’s the naked fiscal honestly revealed by the law enforcement community that is the shocker of this article.  When asked why there is such opposition to a Texas bill to make small-time personal marijuana possession a non-arrestable offense, they explain that they can’t afford not to arrest pot smokers:

Rep. Harold Dutton’s HB 184 would reduce penalties for use of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids (perhaps a portent, the hearing began at almost exactly 4:20, the traditional time for an afternoon toke), and Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s HB 2914 would set 0.02 grams as the minimum amount of a controlled substance necessary to cause an arrest; though the amount involved is still tiny, the bill would prevent most trace-case prosecutions.

For more than two hours, a stream of supporters pieced together a compelling mosaic of arguments for ending the prohibition of marijuana. Bryan-College Station Judge John Delaney reported that probation officers in Brazos County had told him that passage of the bill, with its removal of incarceration and therefore of probation, would devastate their offices. Why? Because almost half of the county’s misdemeanor probationers have been convicted of possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. “We live off our under-two-ounce misdemeanor guys. They pay the rent.”

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. nygratefulfred on

    they used to be there to help us,now they are there to $fine$ us and generate an income for the local,state,and federal governments!

  2. nygratefulfred on

    much easier for them to bust people for smoking some Budd-real crime takes courage and brains to deal with,and they may get hurt!

  3. stellarvoyager on

    This article on AlterNet shows the consequences of this mentality. These cops go for the “low hanging fruit” and leave people like Ariel Castro in our communities committing these horrific crimes, sometimes for a decade. I am really worried that this guy might get just 5 – 10 years while pot dispensary owners get 40+ year terms. What an outrage!


  4. firetheliberals on

    Police talk a big game about public safety, but when it cones down to it, the focus on ripping off citizens to fund their operations. Traffic tickets, possession, you name it, I would love to see total time expended patrolling neighborhoods. In my small town hassling teenagers and speed traps is all they can do now that weed is legal

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