- Associated Press - Thursday, June 28, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Police from a central Arkansas city will no longer make arrests for possession of small quantities of marijuana.

Starting Sunday, the Jacksonville Police Department will instead issue citations for people who possess less than 15 grams of marijuana, unless those people have previous drug convictions. Offenders will still be assigned court dates but won’t be taken to jail, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

Police Chief John Franklin said his officers spend a considerable amount of time arresting and transporting misdemeanor marijuana offenders, and that the number of arrests congests an already overcrowded county jail. The department arrested nearly 500 people last year on drug charges, according to crime reports.

“We still want to hold people accountable and minimize the time spent on those arrests that don’t really go anywhere,” said Franklin, who was sworn in as chief June 1. “The courts themselves have decriminalized small amounts. What are they going to do with these people?”

Jacksonville’s City Council didn’t vote on the switch to citations, but three of the four members available for comment Wednesday said they’re in favor of the new policy.

“Our officers are out there, and they could be somewhere else where someone needs their help very badly,” Councilwoman Barbara Mashburn said. “You’re putting officers where we need them.”

The councilman who didn’t outright endorse the move, Terry Sansing, said he was indifferent about the policy.

“I don’t feel too much one way or the other about this,” he said. “(Franklin) has some very valid reasons, we’re just going to wait and see how this plays out.”

At least two other cities in Arkansas, Fayetteville and Eureka Springs, have instituted similar policies. A citations initiative was voted down earlier this month in Little Rock.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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