GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Since its breakout in 2017, only 230 cite and release citations have been given in Williamson County. The number of local marijuana arrests filed with the county has also nearly vanished, with that number for 2022 trickling in at only three.
Corby Holcomb, the first attorney for the Williamson County Attorney’s Office, said “cite and release” legislation was passed in Texas in 2007, but the county wouldn’t be approached by a police department about issuing citations for minor infractions until 2017.
“It’s just another tool for officers to use, and it’s really up to their discretion,” said Holcomb.
Though 230 might seems low for a county of nearly 600,000, Holcomb said that could be for a few reasons: cite and release is optional and only a few departments in the county practice it.
He also said the pandemic has influenced how many people departments have arrested in the last few years, so any numbers collected may not share a complete picture.
“With COVID, it’s been so weird,” said Holcomb. “There for a while [police] weren’t arresting, so the numbers are also kind of off.”
He said marijuana arrests only account for a percentage of cite and release cases, with the others being linked to crimes like petty theft. Possession of marijuana arrests have been trending down in the county the last few years, as well as making that portion even smaller.
The County Attorney’s Office said in 2019, 732 possession of marijuana cases were filed. That number is drastically down from 2018’s 1,346 cases and 2017’s 1,676 cases.
The office said laws regarding the testing of marijuana complicated how charges like this were filed. In 2020 and 2021, there had only been one case each. Only three have been filed in 2022.
Change rolls into town
In the Georgetown square, you can find quaint coffee shops, charming boutiques, and as of a few months ago pre-rolled joints, edibles and buds of CBD and Delta 8, marijuana’s legal cousins.
Brandi Townsend owns the store that sells these products called Cozy Cannabis. She said clients of all ages come into the shop, wanting to buy a product that has a similar effect to marijuana but is completely legal.
“I was even a little nervous to put up the name of the place on basically a billboard outside,” said Townsend. “But people love us here.”
Townsend said a few years ago, a shop like hers wouldn’t exist. And while it does, it hasn’t operated without some stigma.
She said a bank recently denied giving her a loan because of the product in her shop and said occasionally people make cruel remarks about her businesses.
However, she said scrutiny is nothing compared to the legal consequences of those still being arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana.
She hopes legal standards catch up with the more accepting perception of the substance and believes that the future could arrive in just a few years.
“It’s sad that there’s people still being incarcerated for similar products to what we’re allowed to sell in our stores,” said Townsend.
When told about the county’s number of cite and release citations, Townsend did not brush off the low number. She said she’s happy to see that police resources are being used for other purposes, something she’s learned in her talks with law enforcement.
“I do think it’s getting a lot better, and after talking with police officers, they’re more watching out for people that are actually dangerous,” said Townsend.