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Saturday, June 23, 2018

City

Man on the Street: New marijuana policy in Harris County


Stoners in Harris county can now breathe a sigh of relief with the implementation of a new policy that will keep marijuana users from clogging up county courts and jails.

Effective March 1, offenders caught with less than 4 ounces — a misdemeanor offense according to Texas law — will not be taken to jail, fined or charged with anything, if they agree to take a voluntary four-hour drug education program.

The program costs the offender $150 and the person must not break the law before completing the class.

Not everyone is eligible to take this option if caught with marijuana. Those that are out on bond, currently on probation, caught in a school zone or those who are under the age of 17 do not have the option to take the class.

If the offender does not complete the class, called “Cognitive Decision Making,” within 90 days of being caught, an arrest warrant will be issued and charges will be filed by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

The new policy, unlike the previous one established by the former HCDA Devon Anderson, does not limit eligibility to first-time offenders. Anyone who is caught can take the class as many times as necessary if they are still eligible. However, the DA reserves the right to determine whether a person is a serial offender, in which case, greater action may be taken against the person.

The change comes in an attempt to curtail unnecessary tax-payer spending and drains on county resources.

“Approximately $26.7 million Harris County tax dollars are spent on the arrest and prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana offenders,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “Comparatively, far fewer tax dollars are spent on the apprehension and prosecution of violent criminals responsible for rape, robbery and burglary in the greater Houston area.”

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