Pubdate: Tue, 09 Feb 2016
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (TX)
Copyright: 2016 Corpus Christi Caller-Times


We anticipate an interesting discussion Tuesday when the City Council 
considers whether police should be allowed or encouraged to "cite and 
release" folks whose only apparent offense is possession of a 
misdemeanor amount of marijuana.

Our opinion: It's high time!

Sorry, we couldn't let that one pass. But don't confuse our partaking 
of the low-hanging fruit as a case of the munchies. It's a clear-eyed 
reality check.

Somebody besides the National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws (NORML) needs to say it: The police have more 
important things to do, the jail is an expensive, finite resource, 
and the worst, most dangerous thing about possessing a small amount 
of marijuana for personal use is its illegality.

The debunking of the dangers of marijuana is ancient history. The 
continuing enforcement against it is a relic of a successful campaign 
to save a government bureaucracy whose time was up with the repeal of 
Prohibition. Four states have legalized its recreational use and 23 
states and the District of Columbia have allowed it in some form or 
function. The scariest thing about marijuana is the people who 
control its illicit distribution. They are a network that wouldn't 
need to exist if it were legal.

But we weren't actually talking about it being legal. That's just an 
inevitability whose time hasn't come quite yet. The proposal before 
the council is nothing more than an intelligent discretionary 
enforcement option that would preserve police resources while not 
needlessly ruining the lives and reputations of recreational users of 
small amounts (four ounces is the maximum amount for misdemeanor possession).

It's no surprise that NORML President Kyle Hoelscher, of all people, 
would call marijuana possession a "low-priority crime." But his is a 
widespread view shared by many nonusers. A police official told 
Kirsten Crow of the Caller-Times that the department has been 
interested in being able to write tickets on a discretionary basis 
for several non-felony offenses, not just marijuana possession. The 
likely candidates for such light treatment would be current residents 
with otherwise-clean records.

Speaking only for ourselves, we'd be a lot madder about petty thieves 
getting off with a citation.

Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn cautioned against giving police officers 
a level of discretion they might abuse by letting off some people but 
not others. But officers already have the power to ignore minor 
offenses. It's nothing new. It's just, in this case, a proposed 
strategy for keeping the peace more peacefully and cost-effectively. 
It should appeal to Vaughn's business sense.

Her main concern is her fear that "cite and release" could be the 
gateway drug to legalizing marijuana. This is an understandable fear. 
It's a legacy fear traceable to generations of faulty anti-marijuana 
propaganda and to the tendency of decent people to abide by the law 
even if the law doesn't make much sense. Marijuana has been against 
the law since long before anyone on the council was born.

Maintaining a hard line against marijuana is a hard habit to break. 
But this isn't about busting cartel smugglers. So how about Vaughn 
and the rest of the council thank us and each other for not smoking, 
agree not to incur the needless expense of throwing the book at those 
who do, and keep on truckin'?
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