San Antonio Police Not Ticketing for Pot Possession – Yet

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Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood watches as San Antonio Police Chief William McManus addresses community members at a town hall meeting in the Eastside.

While Bexar County sheriff's deputies may have the option to issue tickets for non-violent misdemeanors such as marijuana possession, the San Antonio Police Department is not immediately following suit, Chief William McManus said Thursday.

"Nothing has changed in our operating procedures right now," McManus told the Rivard Report.

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood announced Wednesday that sheriff’s deputies would be given the option to treat five Class B misdemeanors as citable offenses rather than ones for which an accused person would be sent to jail. Such misdemeanors include possession of marijuana under four ounces.

LaHood told the Rivard Report on Thursday that the cite and release pilot program will be evaluated and refined after 60 days. He said he would then present data and guidelines to the other 48 law enforcement agencies within Bexar County, including SAPD and the police departments of local municipalities.

"The reason why we've only been talking to Bexar County right now and the Sheriff's Department is because they're the ones we've been working with on the computer system," LaHood said. "We're going to try it with them first, and then see how it works out for those 60 days."

At the time of the announcement, LaHood said the San Antonio Police Department "verbally" expressed interest in utilizing the program.

McManus told the Rivard Report that San Antonio police officers would begin using the same discretion as sheriff's deputies. However he did not know when SAPD expected to implement the cite and release program, saying there is a considerable amount of logistical work and training required to properly introduce the new procedure.

SAPD officers made more than 5,600 marijuana-related arrests in 2015 and 2016, according to the San Antonio Police Department. Sandra Pickell, a Bexar County Sheriff's Office representative, said the County could not provide similar data because it keeps information only on aggregate narcotics violations, such as total grams seized in a year.

Included in Bexar County's cite and release program are criminal mischief and property damage, property theft, and theft of service – all valued at less than $750 – and driving with an invalid license. Possession of synthetic marijuana and graffiti will remain jailable offenses.

Like Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, McManus said the new program does not mean law enforcement officers are required to issue citations for the specified misdemeanors; rather, it provides law enforcement the opportunity to better utilize its resources, such as time and jail space.

"This is all about giving officers discretion whether to cite or release," McManus said. "The result that we hope for is that in the right circumstances, it will give officers more time on the street as opposed to getting tied up in arrests."

The police chiefs of Alamo Heights and Olmos Park told the Rivard Report on Wednesday that their departments will not participate in the program

5 thoughts on “San Antonio Police Not Ticketing for Pot Possession – Yet

  1. This is ridiculous. No important company is going to want to relocate to texas if we arent in the same century as Washington, Oregon, California, DC, or even colorado (which used to be part of Texas). Much less Massachusettes, Vermont, Alaska!, and Maine.

    • Hmmm, I am pro-legalization but I don’t think that economic development is the argument that is going to sway anti-marijuana hardliners.

      Just look at Amazon. Dallas and Austin are both on the Amazon HQ2 shortlist. And there are several other cities from states that have not decriminalized or legalized pot. Someday we may reach a point where major corporations will avoid investing in states that continue to criminalize pot use, but 2018 is not that time.

      • Unfortunately I think Andy is right about this one. Although the graph of how many people are arrested for truly minor levels of pot possession is astounding.

      • Being on a short list might as well be a short bus. I am not a pot smoker, but Texas needs to move into the 21st century. Pot is not the problem. Anti pot people trying to control other peoples lives for no good reason are the problem. We need to be vocal about it. If gays weren’t vocal about marriage when ithers said to shut up, they would have never gotten it.

  2. I have been a stronger believer in legalization of drugs. Much like prohibition, it only brought crime and violence. The issue I have witnessed thus far is there is no way to monitor quality including additives in marajuana (and all street drugs). Also a person can show up for work stoned. Alcohol is easier to detect.
    A company I use to do business with in Washington lost a good deal of their client base due to poor quality of the product. This started within a short time after legalization. Seriously, if we DO, it needs governance and oversight. Isn’t our cocktail?

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