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El Paso City Council approves new ‘cite & release’ marijuana policy

A man holds a small amount of marijuana in his hand.
Lakana file
A man holds a small amount of marijuana in his hand.

EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso City Council on Tuesday approved a new policy for the handling of those found in possession of marijuana.

Council voted 7-0 with one abstention to approve a resolution for a "Cite and Release" policy.

The city has been operating and will also continue to operate with a "First Chance" policy that allows first offenders the opportunity to keep their records clean by paying a $100 fine and serving eight hours of community service.

But now the city will also utilize the "Cite and Release" proposition. It will also look to keep offenders out of jail, however a citation will be given to those who are found holding the drug.

"The person is not being immediately arrested and that of course if very beneficial to the police department because they are not losing hours waiting to book someone or process someone," said El Paso County Court Judge Ruben Morales.

However, District Attorney Jaime Esparza said he is not necessarily convinced about the "Cite and Release" policy. Esparza has been a big supporter of the "First Chance" program and noted that it was not a free ride to offenders.

Judge Morales sees where both programs will be used hand in hand to keep marijuana offenders out of jail, but held accountable.

"First chance program is for the people who have never been in trouble, who have clean records and are trying to help them keep those clean records. Cite and release is for the people that don’t qualify," Morales said.

Since the "First Chance" program was introduced it had a 75% completion rate, with more than 480 first time offenders keeping their records clean.

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JC Navarrete

El Paso native JC Navarrete co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend newscasts and reports during the week.


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