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OfflineColours

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March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz * 3
    #24096309 - 02/16/17 09:27 PM (5 months, 26 days ago)

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/New-policy-to-decriminalize-marijuana-in-Harris-10935947.php

Quote:

Houston and Harris County are poised to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana in a sweeping move that puts the area at the forefront of efforts in Texas to halt minor drug arrests that clog jails and courts.

District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the new policy Thursday with Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

The policy, set to begin March 1, means that misdemeanor offenders with less than four ounces of marijuana will not be arrested, ticketed or required to appear in court if they agree to take a four-hour drug education class, officials said.

Ogg said the county has spent $25 million a year for the past 10 years locking up people for having less than 4 ounces of marijuana. She said those resources would be better spent arresting serious criminals such as burglars, robbers and rapists.

"We have spent in excess of $250 million, over a quarter-billion dollars, prosecuting a crime that has produced no tangible evidence of improved public safety," she said. "We have disqualified, unnecessarily, thousands of people from greater job, housing and educational opportunities by giving them a criminal record for what is, in effect, a minor law violation."

Officials have said it could divert an estimated 12,000 people a year out of the criminal justice system and would save officers hours of processing time now spent on low-level cases. More than 107,000 cases of misdemeanor marijuana cases have been handled in the past 10 years, officials said.

Since there is no arrest, there is no arrest record. Since there is no court date, there are no court documents connected to the encounter. The plan calls for officers to seize the marijuana and drop it off at a police station at the end of their shift, along with a record of the encounter in case the suspect does not take the class.

"You do not get charged with anything," Assistant District Attorney David Mitcham, who heads the DA's trial bureau, said Wednesday. "You have a pathway where you can avoid going to court."

Every Harris County law enforcement agency would be affected, since they rely on the district attorney's office to prosecute their cases.

Ogg, a Democrat who beat incumbent Republican District Attorney Devon Anderson in the November general election, campaigned as a reform candidate who pledged to reduce arrests for low-level drug offenses.
Reaction to the proposal was swift, coming even before details of the program were officially unveiled.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon sharply criticized the proposal, saying Ogg was trying to legalize marijuana.
"Unlike Harris County, Montgomery County will not become a sanctuary for dope smokers," Ligon said in a press release. "I swore an oath to follow the law – all the laws, as written by the Texas Legislature. I don't get to pick and choose which laws I enforce."

The Houston chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, praised the program.
"Law enforcement should focus on protecting our communities instead of wasting their resources arresting people and ruining their lives over a misdemeanor amount of cannabis," the organization said in a press release. "Our DA is taking a brave course of action to minimize the detrimental affect that prohibition has on our communities."

At the sheriff's office, the new policy will save up to 12 hours of processing time per month for as many as 1,000 suspects, a move that will ease the workload on administrators and jailers who transfer and process inmates, officials said.

"We're really encouraged by these swift actions by the district attorney," said sheriff's spokesman Ryan Sullivan. "And we are looking forward to working with Harris County's criminal justice leadership identifying common-sense solutions to our broken criminal justice system."

Sullivan said the move would likely not affect the jail population significantly, since most misdemeanor marijuana offenders move quickly in and out of jail. On Wednesday, just 12 people were jailed on misdemeanor marijuana offenses and unable to make bail, he said.

Elected district attorneys are given wide latitude in their discretion about how to enforce laws in their jurisdictions. Diversion programs, such as drug courts, have been widely used across Texas, and Austin has launched a "cite and release" program in which low-level drug offenders are given tickets and required to appear in court.

Under the new local program, police would identify a suspect to make sure they do not have warrants or other legal issues, then would offer them the option of taking the drug education class. If the suspect takes the class, the drugs are destroyed and the agreement is filed away. A suspect would be able to take the class over and over again regardless of past criminal history, officials said.

The new program will keep police on the streets longer each day and reduce costs for lab testing of the drugs, Mitcham said.
If the suspect does not take the class, the contraband will be tested, and prosecutors will file charges and issue an arrest warrant. Offenders could then face up to one year in jail if convicted of the Class A misdemeanor.

In the past, police union officials have supported marijuana diversion programs as long as officers are allowed to drop evidence at police stations, instead of having to take it downtown.

Shortly after taking HPD's top post in December, Acevedo — who previously was chief in Austin – voiced similar sentiments about low-level drug cases, saying police should go after drug dealers rather than users. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
"For those that are involved in the violence of the drug trade, that's who I want to focus on," he said in December. "I want to focus on the people that are the big movers and shakers that are poisoning young people."

Mitcham, who is one of Ogg's top lieutenants, agreed.
"We don't want people to go through an arrest, and all that entails, over simple possession of marijuana," he said. "We don't want the cops spending the hours it takes to book somebody into jail while the burglars conduct their business because there's no cop on the beat."

Ogg, who lost the 2014 election for DA before unseating Anderson last year, has long campaigned on a diversion initiative.
Part of Ogg's platform was adopted by Anderson, who created a diversion program in 2014. Under Anderson's plan, only first offenders were eligible to take the diversion program and could take it only once.
Under that plan, they were arrested, jailed, had to arrange bail and come to court to apply for a year-long probation.




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Edited by naum (02/21/17 09:59 AM)


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OfflineKonyap
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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: Colours]
    #24096815 - 02/17/17 01:46 AM (5 months, 26 days ago)

Thats a drop in the bucket.

they still give you a felony for trafficking and a felony for drug dealing

smoking in public is a criminal offense but you get a parking ticket.


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Offlinelosfreddy
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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: Konyap]
    #24096963 - 02/17/17 05:16 AM (5 months, 26 days ago)

So i can legally carry weed in this great county of ours. I think I'm about to start crying


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InvisibleONE OZ SLUG
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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: losfreddy]
    #24097949 - 02/17/17 03:49 PM (5 months, 26 days ago)

This is quite unexpected, as Harris county is notorious for being assholes. It's a major step for Harris county in the right direction, that's for sure.

This makes me pretty hopeful that marijuana laws in Texas may someday change for the better.


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OfflineColours

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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: ONE OZ SLUG]
    #24098394 - 02/17/17 07:25 PM (5 months, 26 days ago)

Quote:

losfreddy said:
So i can legally carry weed in this great county of ours. I think I'm about to start crying




Not legal but the punishment is much more reasonable than dealing with jail, court, lawyers etc. Regardless, definitely a victory!

Quote:

ONE OZ SLUG said:
This is quite unexpected, as Harris county is notorious for being assholes. It's a major step for Harris county in the right direction, that's for sure.

This makes me pretty hopeful that marijuana laws in Texas may someday change for the better.


I was surprised when I read the news at work. I was like :nowaydude:


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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: Colours]
    #24098557 - 02/17/17 08:47 PM (5 months, 26 days ago)

Yeah, Harris county jail is hella crowded. Been there a  couple times.  If you get caught smoking weed here , they just tell you to get rid of it. Most cops don't wanna deal with it. Just too common


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Offlinemorrowasted
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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: Konyap]
    #24100711 - 02/18/17 06:52 PM (5 months, 25 days ago)

Quote:

Konyap said:
Thats a drop in the bucket.

they still give you a felony for trafficking and a felony for drug dealing

smoking in public is a criminal offense but you get a parking ticket.



feels like a huge wave when it's your home county and you're a pothead and you've been living your whole life with the mindset that you just like in a conservative state and that's that


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Offlinedwnlw2slw
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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: morrowasted]
    #24104588 - 02/20/17 09:05 AM (5 months, 23 days ago)

I 2nd what morrowasted said. It feels huge and good to know that we're still going that way.
I unfortunately live next door to Harris county in Galveston county, where they can, will, and are anxiously awaiting a chance to ruin your life for having a joint.


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Offlineniteman
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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: dwnlw2slw]
    #24107145 - 02/21/17 02:46 AM (5 months, 22 days ago)

It's kinda surreal reading something like this. I didn't think Texas would make progress like this:hank:


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InvisiblenaumM
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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: Colours]
    #24107514 - 02/21/17 10:15 AM (5 months, 22 days ago)

OP copied text edited for clarity/ease on the eyes.

Sounds like a great step forward for Houston and Harris County which is one of the more liberal and progressive places in Texas now.


Key warning points about this program:

1. While it may be the first step toward legalization, for now this is a decriminalization initiative for possession. Manfacture and distribution are still very illegal like someone mentioned. I also expect marijuana-related DUI/DWI cases to rise. Please don't toke and drive.

2. This does nothing to address the issues of the disparity of penalities for hash/hash concentrates compared to flower. Posession of any amount of hash, BHO, oil, resin, dabs, etc. is an automatic felony. Brownies and other edibles have been treated as hash/THC concentrates traditionally. For now, it is safer to posses/smoke flower in Harris county.

3. The Houston area is made up of more counties than just Harris so  you have to pay attention to the county you are in or travelling through. Getting popped with 3 oz of dank in Brazoria, Montgomery, Fort Bend, or Waller is going to be much more serious than it will be in Harris County. A similiar situation exists in Austin where you get a citation in Travis County but a whole lot worse if you are stopped in Williams County.

4. This is better than the decriminalization measure in Austin. No ticket/citation or fine is amazing. This will surely save many young people from criminal records and the stigma and trouble that comes with one.

Edit: Link to current State wide penalities via NORML: hxxp://norml.org/laws/item/texas-penalties-2


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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: naum]
    #24108147 - 02/21/17 02:22 PM (5 months, 22 days ago)

Hey Naum, know what would happen if you are pulled over by a state trooper rather than a county or city of Houston? Also, I'm assuming this law isn't gonna apply in city of Katy? City of Katy cuts 3 counties and has its own law enforcement.


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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: losfreddy]
    #24109448 - 02/21/17 10:46 PM (5 months, 21 days ago)

Disclaimer: IANAL. Nothing I say should be taken as legal advice.

I am not sure what would happen.

1. State troopers do have jurisdiction even in city limits and outside the highway. Typically tthey should be refering the case to the local DA, but how it will play out is another story.

2. I do not know much about the City of Katy unfortunately. I do know the city is split between Harris, Fort Bend and Waller counties. The Katy Police general look to the appropriate DA who would be Kim Ogg for Harris County. The one news article on the issue I could find seemed to indiate that if you are in Harris Co. the Katy Police Department would not arrest you but would follow the policy the DA has outlined.

3. The DA for Montgomery County (i.e. The Woodlands) has been a very outspoken critic of the Harris County policy so I would definitely avoid that area.


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Re: March 1st 2017 - Harris County/Houston will decriminalize less than 4 oz [Re: Colours]
    #24110687 - 02/22/17 01:07 PM (5 months, 21 days ago)

:billymaythumbup:


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