Those committing misdemeanor cannabis offenses in Harris County, Texas will not be placed in jail as part of a new policy being put in place by the county’s new District Attorney (DA) Kim Ogg.
“All misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases will be diverted around jail,” Ogg said during her swearing in as the country’s new DA.
“I’ve never felt good about putting marijuana users in the same jail cells as murderers”, Ogg said following her inauguration. “It’s just not fair, it doesn’t make any sense, and our country is resoundingly against that”.
The policy is an extension of the First Chance Intervention Program which was started by former Harris County DA Devon Anderson. The program made it so that those caught possessing up to two ounces of cannabis for the first time would be given a citation and mandated to attend a diversion program However, those caught possessing cannabis for a 2nd time have still faced a possible misdemeanor and jail time.
In addition to expanding the program to include more than just first-time offense, Ogg plans to encourage lawmakers to make a change.
“I’m going to look at our legislature to take another look at the drug laws and the penalties that are imposed under Texas law”, she says. “As long as it’s the law, I’ll follow it. But our office is going to use the discretion that the legislature gave us to handle marijuana cases differently”.
On the state-level, a constitutional amendment that would legalize the possession, cultivation and distribution of cananbis was filed last month in the legislature by State Representative Donna Howard. The proposal, HJR 46, is one of several cannabis-related measures that have been filed, though it’s the only one that would full legalize the plant (the other measures would either decriminalize it, or lower the penalties associate with it).