New Dallas County marijuana non-prosecution policy reduced police referrals according to SMU Law's Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center

July 20, 2021


New Dallas County marijuana non-prosecution policy reduced police referrals according to SMU Law's Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU Dedman School of Law’s Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center released its second report investigating Dallas County trends in the enforcement of marijuana misdemeanors today. Budding Change: Marijuana Prosecution Policies and Police Practices in Dallas County, 2019 explores the impact of policy changes on the number of marijuana referrals in Dallas County. The report found that police referrals for prosecution significantly decreased after the implementation of a new non-prosecution policy for first-time marijuana possession.

In February 2019, newly elected Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot instituted a non-prosecution policy for most cases of first-time misdemeanor marijuana possession. According to the Deason Center report, after D.A. Creuzot implemented the non-prosecution policy, municipal police departments referred substantially fewer cases for prosecution than they had in 2018. After the District Attorney’s Office issued a July 2019 policy requiring that police submit laboratory tests with marijuana cases, police referrals decreased even more dramatically.


Key points from Budding Change include:

  • In 2019, Class A and B misdemeanor referrals for marijuana possession decreased by 31 percent countywide, as compared to 2018 data.
  • District Attorney Creuzot’s decision to decline to prosecute most first-time marijuana possession cases was associated with a 24 percent decrease in the number of marijuana misdemeanors police referred for prosecution compared to 2018.
  • After District Attorney Creuzot required police to include a laboratory report with any marijuana case referred for prosecution, referrals decreased by 46 percent compared to 2018.
  • Collectively, the six large municipalities that were responsible for 81 percent of 2018 Dallas County marijuana cases made only 29 percent fewer marijuana arrests in 2019. In contrast, seventeen smaller municipalities, which were responsible for 19 percent of 2018 cases, reduced their 2019 marijuana arrests by 55 percent.

Budding Change is the second in a series of reports investigating trends in the enforcement of marijuana misdemeanors. The first report, The ABCs of Racial Disparity, found significant racial disproportionality in Dallas County in the enforcement of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana misdemeanors.

Future reports will be released regularly throughout the summer and can be found at For media interviews, contact Lynn Dempsey at or 214-768-8617.




The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law brings a stats and stories approach to criminal justice reform. The Deason Center collects, analyzes, and assesses the hard data that data identify criminal legal policy and reform needs. Combining these data with the stories of people who live, work and struggle in our criminal justice system, the Deason Center makes a compelling case for smart, compassionate, and sustainable criminal justice reform. The Deason Center helps criminal justice stakeholders develop and implement best practices and supports data-driven criminal justice research that has utility across multiple jurisdictions. Through conferences, symposia, colloquia, roundtables, and working groups, the Deason Center fosters collaborations between scholars, criminal justice researchers, and criminal justice stakeholders. The Center also educates SMU students about criminal justice issues and provides students with academic and experiential opportunities to work in criminal justice policy and reform.


SMU Dedman School of Law was founded in 1925. With more than 17,000 alumni from more than 80 countries, it enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction. SMU Dedman School of Law is known for its academic rigor, as well as its excellent record in preparing students to practice in prestigious law firms, major corporations, and public service organizations. The faculty excel in their public engagement efforts, groundbreaking scholarship, innovative teaching, and international impact. The law school boasts eleven legal clinics and three academic centers with programs making an impact in the community and nationwide. SMU Dedman School of Law ranks as a top law school by National Jurist/preLaw in Business Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Intellectual Property Law, Tax Law, and Human Rights Law. It is ranked #30 by National Law Journal/ for having the highest percentage of 2019 graduates in associate jobs and #20 for the highest percentage of 2019 graduates promoted to partner at the nation’s 100 largest law firms. It also has one of the country’s oldest LL.M. programs for graduates of foreign law schools, a program initially launched in 1949.