Moves to decriminalize marijuana have been gaining ground nationwide in recent years. A number of states have legalized weed for medical use. Two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized it for both medical and recreational use. Texas has not legalized it for either purpose. But if a candidate for Harris County D.A. gets her way, possession of small amounts will be largely decriminalized in the county.
Kim Ogg, who is running for the district attorney's office, says that if she is elected, those who are charged with possessing a small amount of marijuana will not face jail time or a criminal record. Instead, those individuals would get a ticket, make a court appearance, and if they plead guilty, be required to do two days of community service in the form of litter clean-up.
The person would not have a conviction on their record, as long as they completed the community service.
Arresting and jailing people for low-level marijuana possession currently costs Harris County taxpayers a lot of money. Last year over 12,000 individuals were charged with possessing less than four ounces of weed in Harris County. They received jail sentences averaging five days. The cost to taxpayers was $4.4 million. Ogg says the total tax savings could be as much as $10 million every year.
Only time will tell if Ogg's proposal ever becomes law. Until then, a conviction for marijuana possession still has serious consequences in Harris County, and one who is charged still needs an aggressive defense. In many cases defense counsel can challenge the state's evidence of actual possession, or the constitutionality of the search that led to discovery of the drug. Before pleading guilty to marijuana possession, an individual could benefit from meeting with an attorney and going over all their options.
Source: Houston Chronicle, "DA candidate calls for no arrest for marijuana," Brian Rogers, July 25, 2014