The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center with the Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law released its second report investigating Dallas County trends in the enforcement of marijuana misdemeanors today. Budding Change: Marijuana Prosecution Policies and Police Practices in Dallas County, 2019 explores the impact of policy changes on the number of marijuana referrals in Dallas County. The report found that police referrals for prosecution significantly decreased after the implementation of a new non-prosecution policy for first-time marijuana possession.
In February 2019, newly elected Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot instituted a non-prosecution policy for most cases of first-time misdemeanor marijuana possession. According to the Deason Center report, after D.A. Creuzot implemented the non-prosecution policy, municipal police departments referred substantially fewer cases for prosecution than they had in 2018. After the District Attorney’s Office issued a July 2019 policy requiring that police submit laboratory tests with marijuana cases, police referrals decreased even more dramatically.
Key points from Budding Change include how in 2019, Class A and B misdemeanor referrals for marijuana possession decreased by 31 percent countywide, as compared to 2018 data. Additionally, Creuzot’s decision to decline to prosecute most first-time marijuana possession cases was associated with a 24 percent decrease in the number of marijuana misdemeanors police referred for prosecution compared to 2018. After Creuzot required police to include a laboratory report with any marijuana case referred for prosecution, referrals decreased by 46 percent compared to 2018. Collectively, the six large municipalities that were responsible for 81 percent of 2018 Dallas County marijuana cases made only 29 percent fewer marijuana arrests in 2019. In contrast, seventeen smaller municipalities, which were responsible for 19 percent of 2018 cases, reduced their 2019 marijuana arrests by 55 percent.
Budding Change is the second in a series of reports investigating trends in the enforcement of marijuana misdemeanors. The first report, The ABCs of Racial Disparity, found significant racial disproportionality in Dallas County in the enforcement of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana misdemeanors.