Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot recently announced that the Texas city will no longer prosecute what he considers “low-level” marijuana-related crimes, including felony marijuana possession.
In a five-page memo released by the Dallas DA office, Creuzot stated,
“Although African Americans and people of other races use marijuana at similar rates, in Dallas County African Americans are three times more likely to be prosecuted…[and] assessed money bond at a higher rate for marijuana possession…The District Attorney must take action to end that disparity.”
Calling the Dallas County bail system “unconstitutional,” DA Creuzot said, “If you decline to prosecute low-level, non-human-being-threatening type cases such as criminal trespass and low levels of marijuana, that would eliminate the issue for those cases. For everybody else, it becomes should there be a bond or not? We are in the beginning stages across the United States in establishing risk factors. They measure risk to show up to court, risk to commit another offense, or risk to commit a violent offense.”
Famous for advocating for state’s rights, Texas has lagged behind other states in terms of legalizing marijuana in any form. Medical cannabis remains illegal, and patients with legitimate qualifying conditions in 31 states and the District of Columbia are currently unable to legally access much-needed THC-containing medications in the Lone Star State.
DA Creuzot could be attempting to change that. The Dallas DA office will now decline to prosecute first-time felony charges for THC possession, as long as those arrests that weren’t made in a designated drug-free zone or involve a deadly weapon.
Dismissing Non-Violent Crimes
Not only is Creuzot choosing not to prosecute low-level cannabis crimes, but he is also actively dismissing misdemeanor and felony charges that have already been made, including petty-theft charges for items valued less than $750.
“Study after study shows that when we arrest, jail, and convict people for non-violent crimes committed out of necessity, we only prevent that person from gaining the stability necessary to lead a law-abiding life. Criminalizing poverty is counter-productive for our community’s health and safety.”
Cases involving the possession of trace amounts of drugs (less than 0.01 grams) will be dropped as well. Rather than issuing arrest warrants for drug cases awaiting lab reports to confirm or deny the validity of charges, citizens will be issued summons to appear in court. Moreover, in an effort to address the incarceration of homeless individuals, any misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges that “do not involve a residence or a physical intrusion into property” will be dismissed. DA Creuzot hopes that the money saved by declining to prosecute low-level crimes will be put to good use, saying, “I urge Dallas County and its municipalities to use the savings to provide affordable housing and mental health services to this vulnerable population.”
In the DA office’s recent memo, Creuzot made a powerful statement: “My own moral compass does not allow me to sit and wait for others to decide to act when I also have the power to do so. I am proposing an approach that makes public safety, not wealth, the determining factor.”