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Austin City Council Orders Police Chief to Eliminate Possession of Marijuana Citation and Arrests, but Police Chief Disagrees

According to the Austin Chronicle, the Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution in late January 2020 regarding arrests and citations for low-level marijuana offenses. The City Council ordered the City Manager to work with the Police Chief Brian Manley to eliminate arrests and citations involving a small amount of marijuana for personal use to the greatest degree possible under state law.

The City Council, of course, has no authority to change state laws in marijuana possession and use. The police chief also released a statement claiming that neither his instructions to police officers nor their enforcement protocols have changed in light of the Council’s resolution. However, Manley did acknowledge that low-level marijuana offenses are low-priority cases for the department, which has led to its “cite and release” policy. He clarified that possession of marijuana remains a criminal offense under state law, and the Austin Police Department still would enforce existing laws on this issue.

Austin City Council Orders Police Chief to Eliminate Possession of Marijuana Citation and Arrests, but Police Chief Disagrees

Despite the police chief’s assurances, however, the reality is that even if officers arrest someone for marijuana possession, they will not face criminal penalties. At most, they will face a citation, which is akin to a traffic ticket. With the statewide legalization of hemp last year, prosecutors statewide realized that they could not prosecute these cases, as they have no ready access to technology that allows the crime lab to distinguish between hemp and marijuana.

Additionally, the Austin City Council also forbade the Austin Police Department from using any city funds or personnel to acquire the technology needed to test for THC and be able to prosecute these low-level crimes.  Manley admitted that they had been working with the lab to acquire this technology, but that their efforts would cease with the passage of the City Council’s resolution. An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and explore your options. We can then help you make the decisions that are mostly like to be beneficial to you based on your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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Posted in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

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