Harris County introduces new Policy for Marijuana Possession

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on February 22, 2017.

Newly-elected Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, along with Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, announced a new policy for possession of small amount of marijuana across the county, in a press conference on Thursday.

The new policy, which is known as the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, goes into effect on March 1.

Under the new program, there will be no arrest, citation, charge, jail or record for those caught possessing up to four ounces of marijuana, Harris County officials said. If less than four ounces of marijuana is found on a person, the person will have to take a four-hour educational class on “decision making” for $150.00 within 90 days.

Once the educational class is completed, no charge is ever filed in this regard. However, if the person caught refuses to attend the class, they could be prosecuted and face a year in jail.

Ogg , a Democrat, says that they aren't decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. Instead, she says it's a diversion program that is legal under state and federal law that will keep nonviolent people out of jail, save tax payer money and let law enforcement focus on going after dangerous violent offenders.

Ogg also pointed out that the county has spent $25 million a year for the past 10 years locking up people for having less than 4 ounces of marijuana. She said those resources would be better spent arresting serious criminals such as burglars, robbers and rapists.

"We have spent in excess of $250 million, over a quarter-billion dollars, prosecuting a crime that has produced no tangible evidence of improved public safety," Ogg said. "We have disqualified, unnecessarily, thousands of people from greater job, housing and educational opportunities by giving them a criminal record for what is, in effect, a minor law violation."

However people, who possess marijuana at drug-free zones around schools or correctional facilities, will continue to be prosecuted.

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