The policy didn’t become statewide law at the time – instead, individual jurisdictions have had the choice of implementing it piecemeal at their own pace.
The point of the law is to enable police officers to simply write a citation for acts including cannabis possession, rather than arrest people on the spot for petty misdemeanors. “The law was specifically designed to imprison poor people of color,” says Kingston. “We have a situation where poor people are disproportionately people of color, and poor people have a disproportionately high number of contacts with the police. “
People in middle-class neighborhoods have very little contact with law enforcement, he says, but if you’re from a lower-income demographic and without a car you’re out in the open and more vulnerable to police interactions.
While the law wasn’t explicitly intended to address racial disparities in policing, Kingston hoped for de facto decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, or anything under four ounces. “Possession should be ignored by law enforcement because it has a disparate impact on minorities, and is a huge waste of police resources,” he says. ” has created a lot of confusion for people because they think when you hear the word ‘citation,’ it means a ticket. ‘” It’s just a way to allow marijuana possession offenders to not have to be arrested on the spot and be bailed out later; still, all 23 of the currently cited individuals are required to appear in court on February 21st.
“We don’t get enough funding for criminal justice,” says Mulder. “
What happens is that 60 percent of the people who get released from jail on a PR bond, which is absolutely free, don’t show up to court later on. There’s a warrant issued for their arrest for failing to appear in court, and then when they get arrested again, they’re left sitting in jail – wasting space and resources on account of low-level, nonviolent weed crimes. “So you have a whole cycle that’s making the poorest people in our community pay for the criminal justice system that has prosecuted them,” she says. So this entire system has the effect of keeping poor people, who are also people of color in many places, poor. “We need our politicians to raise taxes so that we can create a criminal justice system that truly helps people, and cite and release is a step in that direction. “It might alleviate some front-end issues that come with an arrest, so that people aren’t held in jail and don’t have to pay bond, but they’re still facing criminal penalties, fines, and jail time,” she says.