SAN ANTONIO – Drug rehabilitation experts in Bexar County are applauding the county’s new cite and release program, saying it could help people and save taxpayers money in the long run.
Rise Recovery’s executive director Evita Morin said for many drug abusers, it all starts with experimental marijuana use and it expands.
“It starts out feeling harmless, but then becomes the term people use is gateway for other experimentation,” she said.
The county is expected to launch a program that will allow misdemeanor offenders who get caught with less than 4 ounces of marijuana the option to choose a class and or community service over jail. If they complete the program, the offense will not make it into their record.
Morin said the program can get people help before the criminal activity leads them deeper into other behavior.
“We're preventing felonies, dropping out of school. We're preventing so many other things that can create a much steeper climb for them to get out of,” she said.
John Mejia, who runs the Alamo Center Education and Treatment Services program, said many of his clients are young people or college students who end up losing a lot as a result of a small mistake, such as getting caught with small traces of marijuana.
“Youngsters are prone to make poor decisions,” Mejia said. “When they grow up, people evolve. A lot of times, those decisions will haunt them in future careers. This will give them a chance to change their destiny.”
Mejia said about 95 percent of those in his drug class were caught with marijuana and were faced with thousands of dollars in drug costs, time in jail and a police record. He thinks the new county program will work for some but not all.
“If they’re ready to change, it can help,” he said.
The county is still working on the details of how the class and community service programs will operate.