The El Paso City Council approved a measure on Tuesday that encourages police to issue citations for low-level marijuana cases instead of making arrests.
The cite-and-release proposal passed in a 7-0 vote, with one abstention. It directs the city manager to implement the policy change so that people who commit a Class A or B misdemeanor cannabis possession offense are not immediately sent to jail to be processed.
Advocates say that this will result in less wasted time and resources for law enforcement and reduce the jail population. Individuals cited would still have to appear before a judge at a later date, however.
Statewide legislation that passed in 2007 gives police the discretion to issue citations rather than bring people into custody for these misdemeanor offenses, but some law enforcement agencies have insisted on continuing to lock people up for minor cannabis crimes.
Meanwhile, El Paso isn’t the only city in Texas to push for marijuana reform at the local level while cannabis remains criminalized statewide. The Austin City Council approved a resolution aimed at ending arrests for low-level marijuana possession earlier this year, though the city’s police department said it would continue to make arrests regardless.
The El Paso City Council first took up the cite-and-release proposal in November but, after some disagreement among representatives, initially voted instead to consult with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office to develop recommendations for implementation.
Now that the proposal has been approved this week it is up to the City Manager to come up with an implementation plan and put the policy into effect by September 1.