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San Antonio council members support marijuana cite and release program

Five members of the San Antonio City Council have expressed support for a cite and release program similar to the one enacted in the Houston area earlier this year.

Also supporting such a program is Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood, according to San Antonio Express-News through mySA.com.

“It’s a win-win for everybody if done correctly,” he said. “I’ve supported cite and release since the law changed,” he said, pointing to the 2007 law which allows law enforcement to issue a citation to offenders committing one of six Class A and B misdemeanors, including carrying four ounces or less of marijuana, instead of carting them to jail.

After taking office in Harris County, District Attorney Kim Ogg instituted a program with the support of the Houston mayor, Harris County sheriff, and Houston police chief which would send those found with four ounce or less of marijuana through a pre-trial diversion program. They would be cited with no arrest, then have to take a drug class and pay a fee for that class. Those who complete the program are not charged. Defendants are able to go through the program multiple times. Any marijuana found is later destroyed.

Current Texas law prescribes up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine for possession of two ounces or less, and up to a year in jail with a $4,000 fine for possession between two and four ounces. There is also a six month driver’s license suspension, even if there is no vehicle involved.

LaHood says that a similar approach to Harris County’s program would be more pragmatic.

San Antonio Police Department spokesman Jesse Salame said the department “would like to take a look at what this other jurisdiction has done and see how their program is modeled and work with city leadership and the DA’s office to determine if that’s something to consider here.” He added that there were 2,477 people arrested in Bexar County for carrying two ounces or less of marijuana in 2016. Roughly 62,000 people were arrested state-wide in 2016 for marijuana possession.

City councilman Roberto Treviño, District 1, said he would be interested to see how marijuana decriminalization laws would affect San Antonio’s large military community. He said natural remedies, like marijuana might be more effective for wounded warriors than a “cocktail version of pain killers.”

“I think we need to have broader discussions about marijuana and what it means,” he said.

State Senator José Menéndez, a Democrat from San Antonio, has introduced SB 269, which would establish a whole plant medical marijuana program in Texas.

Further statements included a spokesperson for Alan Warrick, District 2, who stated the councilman “absolutely believes in a decriminalization policy.”

In District 3, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran’s spokesperson says “she feels it’s an option worth studying.”

Rey Saldana of District 4 was straightforward in saying “I’m supportive of it.”

Shirley Gonzalez, who represents District 5, stated “I’m generally supportive based on what they’ve been doing in Harris County.”

Councilman Ray Lopez, District 6, Councilman Ron Nirenberg, District 8, Councilman Joe Krier, and District 9 did not return multiple requests for comment. A spokesperson for Councilman Cris Medina, District 7, said he “wasn’t comfortable commenting without more information” while Councilman Mike Gallagher of District 10 declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Mayor Ivy Taylor said she would not make a statement on the matter, saying “Publicly, because we’re not even considering it right now. It’s not something that’s on our radar.” She added that Taylor does not want to comment until it becomes in issue.

In July of 2015 Taylor’s step-son, Aaron Taylor, was arrested for marijuana possession while sitting in a parked car after police received reports of a suspicious vehicle.

Previous requests by Texas Cannabis Report for a statement from the mayor concerning her stance on marijuana were not returned.

Currently the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee is considering HB 81, which would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a $250 civil fine, with no arrest, and no criminal record. That committee is expected to vote on the bill in the near future, and many anticipate it will pass.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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