Texas residents may be interested in learning how a Harris County district attorney pushed for a change that has led to an 80 percent reduction in marijuana possession-related misdemeanors. In Harris County, a program implemented by the district attorney allows individuals to go through a special course as opposed to being arrested for marijuana possession.

It is a misdemeanor for Harris County residents to have 4 ounces or less of marijuana. However, this new voluntary program allows individuals to take a four-hour course that educates them on decision-making skills in lieu of arrest. During the course, a cost-benefit analysis is presented where the cost of getting into trouble with the law is laid out. There is also education on setting goals, developing skills and taking steps to avoid risky situations and behaviors.

Individuals who opt to take the course have 90 days to complete it. The course has a fee of $150. However, the fee can be waived in certain circumstances. During a press conference, the Harris County district attorney outlined how more than 9,180 individuals have been welcomed into the program. On average, the age of these individuals is 26.

Interestingly, between 2006 and 2016, Harris County prosecuted over 100,000 people for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. This had a cost in excess of $100 million according to the District Attorney’s Office. It is estimated that this program has saved the county $30 million when factoring in the price of jail stays, processing marijuana that has been seized, and paying defense lawyers and judges.

When a person is charged with a crime, they may want to speak to an attorney. Criminal defense attorneys are a vital part of a healthy justice system. They are not just for guilty people, nor are they solely for innocent individuals. Criminal defense attorneys may be able to work with their clients from the criminal investigation stage all the way to when they are released from prison or cleared of charges.