TEXAS DA PLANS MARIJUANA SANCTUARY

[2/16/17]  The top law enforcement officers in the largest county in Texas and in the state’s most populous city are set to announce a new policy about how they will deal with those caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Proponents of the policy say that it will reduce court dockets and free-up jail space and law enforcement time for arresting and prosecuting criminals who pose a bigger threat to the community. They also argue that giving someone a criminal record for possession of small amounts of marijuana affects their ability to get certain employment, education, and other opportunities–stigmatizing them.

Opponents of the more lenient policy say that public officials and law enforcement do not have the discretion to ignore the laws on the books in Texas.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo are expected to announce the new policy on Thursday, the Houston Chronicle reported. Beginning on March 1, any person caught with less than four ounces of marijuana will not be arrested, ticketed, or required to appear in court. The offender take a four-hour drug education class.

“You do not get charged with anything,” Assistant District Attorney David Mitcham told the Houston newspaper. “You have a pathway where you can avoid going to court.” Mitcham heads up the trial bureau at the district attorney’s office. Officials were reported to say that the new policy would save Harris County $10 million a year because approximately 12,000 people affected by the policy would not be caught up in the criminal justice system.