Beginning Friday, January 1st, the first-time possession of up to two ounces of cannabis will no longer result in an arrest and criminal charge in Harris County, the most populous county in Texas. Harris County is the third most populous county in the entire United States.
The new policy was put forth by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, who is calling it the First Chance Intervention Program. Under this program, those caught possessing up to two ounces of cannabis will no longer be arrested, charged with a criminal offense and imprisoned for up to six months. Instead, they’ll be given a citation and mandated to attend a diversion program.
“It minimizes the administrative burdens that officers face when they file charges; it reduces the cost for prosecution and court proceedings; and of course it gives the offender an opportunity to have a completely clean record”, says Anderson.
Anderson says that although the policy only applies for first time offenders, that may change in the near future.
“And after I saw these [stats], I said, hey, let’s look at what the recidivism rate would be for a second offender or a third offender,” Anderson said. “So we’re going to look at that.”
According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report, Harris County has a population of over 4 million, which is more than the entire population of 24 states, including Oregon (3.9 million) and Oklahoma (3.8 million).