houston marijuana laws

The new Houston marijuana policy and diversion program allows small-time smokers to avoid jail altogether.

Houston knows it has an overcrowded jail issue. So last month, newly elected District Attorney Kim Ogg and Houston police chief Art Acevedo announced a diversion program that will save the city $25 million in regards to attorneys, prosecutors, court costs, lab testing and more. The program went into effect at midnight on Tuesday.

“We must always be smart and safe with our law enforcement decisions,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “We don’t want to make things worse, but business as usual is not a solution. “We can be tough on crime … but at the same time we can be smart and cost-efficient.”

Now if smokers are caught with four ounces or less of marijuana, a law enforcement officer will do the following: confiscate the weed and have the person sign a contract promising to take a $150 drug education class. If one is too poor to pay the $150, a waiver will be issued. Smokers must not have their weed near school zones and they can sign up for the diversion program every time they’re caught with four ounces or less.

The weed and the paperwork will be taken to the station at the end of an officer’s shift. If one doesn’t comply with the drug education class then an arrest warrant will be issued and a regular criminal case will be filed.

So it boils down to this. Either you sign up for what amounts to the drug version of Defensive Driving to keep your record clean or you endure the rather annoying and agonizing legal process. Needless to say, Ogg’s plan for Harris County and the city already has its detractors up in Austin.

“The lieutenant governor has said repeatedly regarding sanctuary cities that he does not believe that law enforcement has the discretion to choose what laws to enforce and what laws to ignore,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s press secretary Alejandro Garcia said last month. “That is his position regarding DA Ogg’s proposal.”