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. ...
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.See a description of the program from HCDAO, reactions from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the Texas Organizing Project, and an estimate of the economic benefits (~$26 million per year) from the new policy.
All this said, the problem with programs based on prosecutors' discretion is that they're based on prosecutors' discretion. She could change it tomorrow, or another DA could be elected down the line and change it back. That's why the Legislature should act to reduce penalties for low-level pot possession, either to a Class C misdemeanor or a civil penalty, to eliminate most arrests for marijuana a) statewide and b) permanently. This is a positive step, but hardly a final one.