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Texas prosecutors dismissing increased number of marijuana cases

September 6, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Texas prosecutors dismissing increased number of marijuana cases

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Prosecutors in the most populated regions of Texas have recently dropped a significantly greater amount of marijuana cases involving smaller quantities of the drug.

In the five most crowded counties — Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis — the rate of dismissed weed-related cases has increased since 2011, a review by the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Data from the Texas Office of Court Administration indicate that dismissals are growing the fastest in North Texas. However, five years ago, only 9% of cases were dismissed in Tarrant County, but about a quarter of them were dropped in 2015. In Dallas County, the number of dismissals increased from 18% to 41% over the same time period.

Statistics reveal that there seemed to be a similar trend transpiring statewide. However, this trend doesn’t reflect an easing of enforcement methods, as the amount of new misdemeanor marijuana cases recorded statewide has stayed consistent.

Law enforcement officials in Travis County stated that they have chosen to prioritize more severe crimes rather than using resources to prosecute lower-level cases of weed possession.

“Jurors would look at us like we are crazy,” Dan Hamre, Travis County prosecutor, stated. “‘You are spending your time, our time and the court’s time on a small amount of personal marijuana?'”

Authorities in Texas indicate that a reason for the increasing number of dismissals are programs related to one in Harris County where cases are settled without prosecution if defendants complete anti-drug courses.

Shannon Edwards, who is in charge of governmental relations at the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association stated: “Nobody goes through three years of law school and becomes prosecutors so they can rap the knuckles of someone for smoking a joint.”

“It’s not what draws them to the profession or gets them excited about doing justice,” Edwards added.

The shift in attitude appears to have attracted few critics. Lawmakers recognize that police must decide how to manage caseloads appropriately.

Republican state Rep. Bryan Hughes said, “Whatever kind of case we are talking about, we expect law enforcement and prosecutors to use discretion and put the resources in the best place.”

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