The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Law lessens offense,does not legalize

By David Boyd/reporter

One state law that went into effect Sept. 1 has seemed to garner the most attention. A new measure, approved during the most recent state session, gives police officers the discretion to give a ticket to a person caught with less than four ounces of marijuana.

On more than one radio program last week, I heard misinformed deejays and hosts discussing the decriminalization of pot in Texas. This is not the case. The new law allows, but does not require, officers to write a ticket to offenders, caught in their home county and deemed no threat to others, in lieu of the normal arrest and detention until arraignment.

The four ounces or less requirement seems to be an arbitrary figure designed to prevent the law from applying to drug dealers who would likely have larger quantities.

Once ticketed for possession, the offender is released, but later required to appear in court for sentencing which may still include jail time. This is not decriminalization. Offenders are still punished. The idea behind this law is to reallocate law enforcement personnel to pursuit of violent criminals.

I like the idea of applying economics, which in simplest terms is the allocation of scarce resources, to law enforcement. All else held constant, if an officer can send nonviolent lawbreakers on their way, the officer is then available to answer a call for help, which increases the police manpower. As long as this policy does not lead to a reduction in officers, it increases those available to respond, making us all safer.

Where the apparently optimistic red-eyed radio personalities got it wrong was assuming this new law would actually be applied here. Reports in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram have the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office urging the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office and Fort Worth Police Department to continue with the immediate detention of offenders. Given the collective position of local law enforcement, it is unlikely that discretion will be employed by arresting officers in Tarrant County.

Regardless of one’s position on the criminality of marijuana, we can all applaud efforts by state legislators to free up human resources and focus their attention on protecting citizens. It is too bad local law enforcement and prosecutors resist change and suppress measures designed to increase the safety of those they are charged to serve and protect.

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