Officers affiliated with the Austin Police Department will no longer arrest or ticket individuals for minor marijuana possession offenses.
The Department publicly announced the policy change today in a memorandum to the Mayor and the City Council. It states, “APD will no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor ‘possession of marijuana’ offenses, unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so as part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony.”
State law classifies the possession of small quantities of cannabis as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a criminal record.
Members of the Austin City Council had previously called on the Department to cease taking actions against low-level marijuana violators, but the Police Chief had refused to direct his officers to do so. A member of the Council credited ongoing community engagement by reform advocates as the impetus for today’s policy reversal.
“This is an important step forward for Austin,” said Jax Finkel, Executive Director of Texas NORML. “The City used the powers of the purse to pressure APD to do what is best for Austin and to no longer waste taxpayers’ funds on these victimless crimes that have disparately impacted communities of color. Texas NORML was proud to work alongside many local organizations to help push forward this important resolution.”
Additional information is available from Texas NORML.