Council Discusses Decriminalizing Marijuana


Legal weed, decriminalized pot or felony conviction for possession of a schedule one drug concept theme with a marijuana leaf and a wooden gavel isolated on wood background. | Image by Victor Moussa, Shutterstock

A Fort Worth council member wants the City to consider decriminalizing the possession of four ounces or less of marijuana. 

Tarrant County law enforcement already has such a policy in place. In June 2021, Tarrant County officials announced that “certain low-level, misdemeanor crimes in Tarrant County” would result in citation instead of jail time. One of these “low-level” crimes was the possession of marijuana between two and four ounces.

Now Council Member Chris Nettles would like to see the City of Fort Worth pass an ordinance that would similarly treat marijuana possession of up to four ounces as a civil matter rather than a criminal one. 

Nettles noted that arrests for marijuana possession have had a disproportionate effect on minorities, even though marijuana use is about the same among white communities and communities of color. 

“The most arrests that were cited in 2021 through 2022 were in East Fort Worth, and that’s where the majority of black and brown communities live,” Nettles said at a recent city council work session, per Fox 4 News.

Nettles said that non-violent individuals are spending months in jail due to small possessions of marijuana, overcrowding the system. 

“We can’t fix state law, can’t fix our jail system here at the local level,” said Nettles, per KRLD. “But these individuals are sitting in jail for six months, sometimes to a year because they can’t afford an attorney.”

Nettles believes that eliminating jail time for these low-level offenders could help alleviate the crowded jail situation. 

“I want the city of Fort Worth to pass an ordinance that says if you have four ounces or less of marijuana, you’ll be given a civil citation. You’ll be cited, and you’ll be released, meaning you’ll go on your way. You’ll deal with it on the civil side instead of going to jail,” said Nettles, per Fox 4 News.

At the informal work session, a relatively new Fort Worth Police Department policy was explained. The policy allows officers, at their discretion, to cite and release suspects found with up to two ounces of marijuana.

However, Nettles believes that persons with up to four ounces of marijuana should likewise avoid jail time, and he asked if there was a legal loophole that would allow the City’s definition of “a small amount of marijuana” to be upped to four ounces.  

Of the 230 marijuana-related cases in the city from October 2021-2022, only 16 were cited and released, according to Nettles. “The other 214 went to jail,” he said, as Fox News reported. 

The reason for that, suggested Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, may be a “matter of communication” about the policy.

One of the problems in making such a discretionary call is that not all Fort Worth police officers have scales in their vehicles for weighing evidence on-scene, according to chief Neil Noakes. Often the officers must just “eyeball it” and weigh the evidence later.

Also, there is the issue of state law, which classifies possession of up to two ounces of marijuana as a Class B misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail. Two to four ounces can net the offender up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine.

Possession of more than four ounces is a felony with a mandatory sentence of at least two years, and possibly more, depending on the amount of marijuana the suspect has in their possession.

Laetitia Brown, the deputy city attorney, said she would review Nettle’s data and examine his questions in light of state law. 

However, Texas state law on the subject may soon be changing.

Rep. Jessica González (D-Dallas) recently filed House Bill 1937, which would recreationally legalize cannabis at the discretion of counties and cities. The bill would allow adults aged 21 and over to possess and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and allow them to “possess, store, or process on the premises of the adult’s private residence not more than 10 ounces of cannabis.”

Another bill coauthored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and a bi-partisan group of fellow representatives would remove the risk of jail time for low-level possession of marijuana, the Houston Chronicle reported

The Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston conducted a survey in January and found that 82% of Texans age 18 and older support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, and 67% support legislation that would legalize marijuana recreationally.

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17 days ago

Interesting that this man compares blacks to whites yet blacks make up less than 13% of the population and commit 60% of the crimes.. 4 oz is a lot of weed. Instead of trying to remedy the problem by lowering the bar why not treat smoking dope as a problem. If you go to states that have legalized weed you can see crime is up and so is poverty. Weed isnt a motivator. Its illegal here in Texas. Dont break the law and you dont have to worry about getting in trouble.

Dustin Arterburn
Dustin Arterburn
Reply to  BIll
1 day ago

Crime is not up were weed is legal it is Actually down And it’s great for patience like me that has a head injury ..