Corpus Christi to consider cite and release for marijuana
Corpus Christi will consider enacting a state cite and release law for marijuana offenders at an upcoming city council meeting.
Corpus Christi now falls into a line of cities across Texas which are considering or have already opted into a state law passed in 2007 which would allow officers to give people caught with small amounts of marijuana a court summons instead of a ride 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.
Given that state laws concerning marijuana will not be up for changing until the legislature meets again in 2017, a local marijuana non-profit headed by an attorney decided to petition their city to adopt the optional cite and release law.
After Kyle Hoelscher, the Executive Director of the Corpus Christi chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, collected 50 signatures to submit the petition, the city secretary drafted an ordinance which will be submitted to the city council this week.
“I made sure to word my petition so that they could not wiggle out of it,” says Hoelscher. “After they write the ordinance, it goes to the city council. If the city council does not pass the ordinance then you move to step 2 and it goes back to the group that submitted it and they have to get 5 percent of the city’s population to sign a new petition to get it on the ballot for 2016.”
He adds, “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 2 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. The police department may even come out in support of it, we do not know.”
Hoelscher doesn’t expect the ordinance to pass, but could be surprised. He’s hoping to appeal to common sense.
“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.”
The city council is slated to meet on Tuesday, February 9 and is expected to take up the matter during the meeting.