SG strikes down legislation that would make marijuana a lower priority offense

Christine Ayala

Student Government voted against legislation Tuesday that would ask UTPD to make marijuana possession a lower priority offense.

The legislation encourages UTPD to issue citations instead of arrests, arguing it will save UTPD time, energy and money, and would encourage the enforcement of the campus-wide tobacco ban to be a higher priority than marijuana. The legislation also states this lower priority would help limit disproportionate treatment based on race or ethnicity under the law.

Perry Pickei, public health junior and natural sciences representative, said his constituents in the College of Natural Sciences are not in support of the legislation. Pickei said the legislation is insufficient and Student Government should wait until the next term starts, on April 4, with new representatives to continue researching the topic before pushing for similar legislation.

“Students come to this university to change the world, not to get high,” Pickei said. “This resolution is hurried and rash.”

Several representatives said the legislation overstepped Student Government’s responsibility and power to try to impact police policy.

Robert Love, public affairs graduate student and an author of the legislation, said the purpose of the legislation is to promote police efficiency and more equal treatment under the law.

“This makes sense as far as saving money and police resources,” Love said. “We’re not trying to change policy; we are encouraging what they already are doing, [which is] issuing citations.”

UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom said according to Travis County law, officers have the option to arrest or issue a citation to those in possession of fewer than four ounces of marijuana, at the officer’s discretion.

“A resolution from [Student Government] doesn’t mean legally we have to change our policy,” Dahlstrom said. “I’m in support of citations when possible.”

Dahlstrom said officers will abide by state law regardless of any campus policy or legislation. He said in cases with less than two ounces, citations are almost always issued.

In 2012, UTPD had 58 controlled substance cases, although not all involved students.