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No More Arrests for Marijuana Possession in Harris County, Texas Starting March 1st

By Reuters

Houston and the county that contains the fourth most-populous U.S. city will decriminalize low-level marijuana possession, with officials saying on Thursday that throwing people in jail for having small amounts of pot has “no tangible public safety benefit.”

The policy, which takes effect March 1, means in most circumstances there will be no jail, no tickets, no court appearances and no criminal record for possession of an ounce or two of marijuana in the city and its surrounding county, home to about 4.5 million people.

More than two dozen U.S. states have legalized some form of marijuana for medical or recreational use, but the drug remains illegal at the federal level and in Texas.

The new “Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program” for Harris County applies to people 17 and older facing no additional charges other than misdemeanor marijuana possession, county and city law enforcement officials said in a statement.

“Harris County has spent more than $200 million in the past decade on more than 100,000 cases of misdemeanor marijuana possession,” District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat who took office this year, said in a statement.

She added that the effort “has deprived neighborhoods of officers’ time that could be spent patrolling communities; jail beds that could be used for violent criminals… and judicial court time that should be spent bringing serious criminals to justice.”

The Texas Attorney General’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The move is also aimed at preventing people from being denied education, employment and housing opportunities due to having a criminal record for marijuana possession.

A main provision is for those caught with low-level possession to complete a four-hour course on decision-making at a cost of $150, which will be waived for the indigent. If people eligible for the program do not want to participate, they will be taken to jail and charged with possession.

The county and Houston will give police officers discretion to bring criminal charges. Individuals under court supervision through bond, probation, or deferred adjudication are not eligible since they have agreements not to violate the law, the county and city said.

Ogg said the move falls under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures that says it is the duty of a district attorney “not to convict, but to see that justice is done.”

“With limited resources, we need to be efficient, smart and thoughtful on fighting crime,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement.

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About Anthony Martinelli

Anthony, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheJointBlog, has worked closely with numerous elected officials who support cannabis law reform, including as the former Campaign Manager for Washington State Representative Dave Upthegrove. He has also been published by multiple media outlets, including the Seattle Times. He can be reached at TheJointBlog@TheJointBlog.com.

10 comments

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  1. Reed

    It keeps getting better!

  2. Ernest Creamer

    I lived in the FT Worth Area for 9 years while working for GD. I HAVE NEVER SEEN A MORE BACKWARDS, UNEDUCATED STATE IN MY LIFE WHEN IT COMES TO CANNABIS !! Grab a 6 pack of beer, jump in your truck and go kill someone while driving drunk! That is Oaky Doky but smoke a joint at home and if a neighbor smells the odor, here comes the cops !! Bunch of Rats with no knowledge except the BS the Government puts out and they believe the lies! Glad I transferred back to California !! Texas, Wake UP !!

  3. Anonymous

    Bet..150 is still to much for a having a lil gram that you only paid 10 for ,and them classes ain’t gonna make no sense just think about it ..”You get caught up and then go to the class and then come out and you see people all around you smoking it”,”oh and it’s some good “..What do you think they gonna Doo.just save that money that y’all Lossing in making them classes for people with weed stupid and will not work .

  4. C. Murdoc

    I can’t believe there are still people this ignorant when it comes to marijuana like cmon Elaine get over it. You hate a drug that actually helps people.

  5. Elaine K

    Way to go Harris Co. How long till you legalize ALL drugs?? Seems like all immorality & all drugs will one day be A-OK in thIS ONCE GREAT STATE OF TEXAS.

    WHAT A SHAME!!!!

    1. Justin S

      Your comment shows a great deal of ignorance about marijuana. The fact it is classified as the same kind of drug as heroin is ridiculous. Pot smokers are non violent and cause less problems than alcohol consumption. Marijuana does not kill or have any proven long term effects. And there is no chemical dependence. Decriminalizing it keeps non violent people out of jail and saves the county money better spent elsewhere. People need to be educated on marijuana and not feed into the old biased and inaccurate propaganda

    2. SunM

      Shut up alcohol causes far more deaths and is legal, I bet your ass has a glass of wine or a drink or two. You’d be disturb if alcohol was illegal although it causes many more issues in society. Go read a book and educate yourself on the pros of marijuana!

    3. Anonymous

      Stfu. It’s a plant not a drug. Enough said.

    4. Becki

      Please stop smoking crack. That must be what you’re on the have such an ignorant comment. Marijuana is legal in over a dozen states, it isn’t a gateway drug, nor has it ever killed someone. You probably drink alcohol, which has killed people and is a gateway drug. Maybe that should be illegal, then what would you say?

    5. Chance

      are you okay with drinking

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