Corpus Christi declines to vote on marijuana cite and release ordinance
The Corpus Christi City Council has opted not to vote on an ordinance which would implement cite and release for small marijuana offenses.
Despite about 25 people showing up in support on a Tuesday, the council decided to take no action on an ordinance to no longer jail some marijuana offenders which was prompted by a petition from a local non-profit organization. Some people waited most of the day, including sitting through an executive session, before finding out that the ordinance would not be considered.
The petition, which required at least 50 signatures from registered voters, was gathered through Corpus Christi NORML, a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The group’s executive director Kyle Hoelscher lead the petition effort.
“No action was taken because nobody on the city council really cares about this issue,” he responded when asked why he thought the council did not vote on the matter.
In 2007 the Texas state legislature passed a law which allows cities and counties to opt for simply giving those caught with a small amount of drugs a court summons rather than take them to jail.
While those caught would still be prosecuted fully, they wouldn’t have to to worry about spending a night in jail, paying bonding and impound fees, or potentially missing work the next day. County jails benefit from this by not having to add to an already crowded system, and officers are able to spend their time in the community rather than at the jail doing paperwork.
Current law for possessing two ounces of marijuana or less is a misdemeanor and can get a person up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine along with the suspension of their driver’s license.
Hoelscher added, “Our group has been eager for the opportunity to start this petition. We get a lot of people asking about it and it has generated a lot of interest in the community. It’s been about two months since we submitted the first petition for the ordinance. I thought that the city was just blowing us off, but it turns out that they were actually working on it quite hard. I have several friends at the City Attorney’s Office. The City Attorney’s Office apparently was talking about it quite a bit and even reaching out to other city agencies to find out how it would affect them.”
He continued, “One of the other ways that we are promoting it is just by how reasonable and prudent the decision would be. Our jail is constantly at 90 percent occupancy and our Sheriff’s Department constantly complains that there is no space in the jail. Our police department constantly complains that they don’t have enough manpower.”
He didn’t think it would pass, however the council still has 45 days to act on the matter.
If nothing happens though, the city will issue petition paperwork and the group will have 90 days to obtain the signatures of five percent of the city’s registered voters, about 9,500. If enough valid signatures are gathered, the matter goes to a vote in November.