A Texas county is rolling out a new policy to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana. Harris County is where Houston is located, and the policy will allow those found to be in possession less than four ounces of marijuana to resolve their case by taking a four-hour drug education course. If these people complete the course, they will not receive a ticket or be taken into custody. Furthermore, they will not be required to appear in court.
The policy takes effect on March 1, and the rationale behind it is to reduce the number of cases that courts have to hear and the number of people housed in county jails. According to the district attorney in Harris County, $25 million was spent per year over the last 10 years putting people in jail for possessing four ounces or less of marijuana.
In addition to the cost savings, it could keep around 12,000 people out of the criminal justice system each year, and it could save officers many hours of processing time. There were in excess of 107,000 misdemeanor marijuana cases handled in the past 10 years. The district attorney also mentioned that taking people into custody for such a minor crime potentially disqualifies individuals from pursuing job opportunities in the future.
Those who are charged with marijuana possession in other parts of the state may wish to speak with an attorney, as the potential penalties if a conviction is obtained could be severe. However, it may be possible for a criminal defense attorney to have this type of drug charge dropped or reduced through plea negotiations with the prosecutor, especially if it is a first offense.