In a time when more states participate in the discussion to legalize marijuana, Lubbock law enforcement agencies said they will continue to follow strict policies established by state legislature.
“We enforce the laws as written,” Lubbock Police Department’s Captain Roy Bassett said. “When we come across the people in possession of marijuana, there’s a really good chance that they’re going to go to jail for it. When we come across people that are dealing marijuana, we’re going to open an investigation and do our best to get them shut down.”
These protocols were once enforced by every agency across Texas. In 2017, documents stated different counties decided to issue citations for marijuana-related offenses dependent on the crime and amount of marijuana in possession. However, Lubbock said they will always make an arrest for marijuana possession because it is still an illegal drug.
“It’s not something in this area that has become an necessity,” Bassett said. “I think it’s important to note that because other departments are issuing citations for it, doesn’t change the penalty group for marijuana. It’s not like all of a sudden it’s just a traffic offense or a slap on the wrist. Those jurisdictions has simply chosen to handle it in a different way for whatever reason. That’s not something that’s become important in the law enforcement community here, whether it be our department, the District Attorney’s office.”
Possession of marijuana is legally a Class B misdemeanor offense. However, it could be increased to a felony depending on how much the offender is possession of and if there are other related offenses.
LPD reported 1,014 arrests in 2017 that include marijuana-related offenses. This is more than previous years, with 875 arrests made in 2016 and 710 arrests made from March through December of 2015.
“Officers come across it on a pretty regular basis, whether it’s a traffic stop or they get called to a domestic disturbance,” Bassett said. “It’s something they come across, and they deal with it when they do.”
He added that marijuana is also found in every area of the region, in all walks of life. However, Department of Public Safety troopers in Lubbock said they find a majority of drugs traveling along Interstate 40.
“We see a lot of misdemeanor marijuana arrests throughout this area,” DPS Lieutenant Bryan Witt said. “DPS troopers arrest for any amount of marijuana. So I know some other states they write a ticket and release, here we don’t do that. It’s an arrestable offense for having any amount of marijuana. So if we find oyu with any amount we will take you to jail.”
DPS reported more than 220 pounds of marijuana were seized in Oldham County during a single routine traffic stop on March 26. Another 167 pounds of the drug were seized in Montee County on April 18. Approximately 50 pounds were seized in another traffic stop in Hale County two days later on April 20.
Witt said troopers often refer to I-40 as a “drug pipeline” because of how often they find narcotics during routine traffic stops. He added that they have noticed a trend of marijuana starting in California then driven across Texas state lines.
“You can’t just pick these people out,” Witt said. “It doesn’t matter what gender you are, what race you are, how old or young you are, we’ve caught them all doing it. So, if you try to limit your scope to a certain type of person, you’re going to miss a lot of drugs going down the highway. so the troopers who go out, they just make normal traffic stops.”
Once a car is pulled over, Witt said troopers are trained to find indicators of narcotics. If they find reasonable suspicion and the driver refuses to let the trooper search the vehicle, then a K9 dog will be called to the scene to detect any drugs from outside of the vehicle. If the dog find something suspicious, then the trooper will have reasonable cause to search the vehicle.
“We look at it as, if we catch you and you’re driving down a Texas highway and you’ve been smoking marijuana, you are intoxicated and we’ll treat you like an intoxicated driver like you’ve been drinking alcohol,” Witt said.
Police said in order to change marijuana laws in the county, all law enforcement agencies would have to agree with the Lubbock County Court system.