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Pharr adopts 'cite-and-release' policy for people caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana

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The Pharr Police Department announced Wednesday that it had adopted a "cite-and-release" policy for people caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana.

Before the adoption of the new policy, people caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana were arrested, booked at the Pharr city jail, magistrated by a local judge, transported to the Hidalgo County jail and released after they posted bond.

Under the new policy, officers may issue citations to people caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana and release them.

Whether or not to arrest people will be left to the discretion of police officers.

“This gives our officers a reasonable alternative to an arrest at the scene if the requirements are met," Pharr police Chief Andrew "Andy" Harvey said in a news release, adding: "I believe this is another step in our efforts to police in a manner that adds value to community."

According to the city, the cite-and-release policy only applies if the following conditions are met:

> The offense must be possession of marijuana.  The marijuana must weigh less than two (2) ounces, Misdemeanor B.

> The offense must occur in Pharr, Texas

> The suspect must reside in Hidalgo County, Texas.

> The suspect must be in possession of a valid driver’s license or identification.

> The suspect must be 17 years of age or older.

> Possession of marijuana must be the only offense in which the suspect is subject to arrest. 

Anyone cited and released by a police officer must appear before a judge at the Pharr Municipal Court within 14 days.

"It’s important to note that this policy does not decriminalize anything, rather can provide a more dignified option for a low-level offense," Harvey said in the news release. “We are partnering with the Hidalgo County DA’s office and our own municipal judge to make this possible. These are critical partnerships that when working together, can make a difference in our communities."

Pharr consulted with Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez about the new policy.

"Our office supports the efforts of the Pharr Police Department, and any other law enforcement agency, to implement this policy as allowable by state law," Rodriguez said in the news release. "It is important that our community understand that the offense is not excusable and is still punishable by law, but this adds a level of flexibility to reduce our jail population."

The new policy will take effect this week.

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