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Austin City Council votes to end arrests for small amounts of marijuana

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Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 18:45:29-05

AUSTIN, TX (KVUE) — The Austin City Council on Thursday voted 9-0 to end arrests and fines for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Councilmember Greg Casar, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison and Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan have been looking to get rid of low-level marijuana offenses through this resolution.

The resolution will stop the arrests and fines for low-level pot possession, or misdemeanor, two grams or less marijuana cases.

This resolution comes after Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1325. That bill, which allows Texas farmers to grow hemp statewide, requires law enforcement agencies to distinguish between hemp and marijuana, which is tested through expensive lab equipment.

Since most counties can't afford the testing, many prosecutors are not pursuing the cases. However, the Austin Police Department is still planning on getting lab equipment.

According to Casar, this resolution will stop funding for the APD so that officers can't determine whether a plant is hemp or marijuana. There's also a two-year statute of limitations on old cases.

"We know that too many Austinites have had their lives derailed by a low-level marijuana offense," Casar said during a press conference on Tuesday. "People have lost their jobs, they could lose their student financial aid, families could even be separated by deportation when we overly enforce low-level offenses that could result in arrests or warrants."

The City has until May 1 to update its guidelines and train Austin officers to stop arresting or citing people with low amounts of marijuana.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office and Round Rock Police Department have also stopped arresting people for low-level marijuana crimes.

Mayor Steve Adler and Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan were absent from the meeting Thursday.

Story courtesy of KVUE.