HOUSTON (TX) -
Dressed in a marijuana leaf patterned dress, Cara Bonin took the microphone Thursday night at the Midtown Bar & Grill in Montrose to address a room of Houstonians excited over Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg's announcement Thursday of a new marijuana offender policy.
Under Ogg's new policy, anyone caught with less than four ounces of marijuana will receive a ticket and be referred to a four-hour "Cognitive Decision Making' class. The offender has 90 days to attend or face arrest. People on bond, unlawfully carrying a weapon, in a drug free zone or in a correctional facility do not qualify. The policy goes into effect March 1st.
Bonin spoke as leader of the Houston chapter of NORML, a national organization aiming to connect citizens with the fight to deregulate marijuana. She says her group is in strong support of the diversion-based approach Ogg is taking to marijuana possession.
"The violent crime that's taking place in our city will begin to be addressed more directly," said Bonin when asked how Ogg's policy will benefit Houston, "because police will no longer be wasting several hours off their beat testing and booking people for small amounts of marijuana possession. We will have a much more civilized society. We can put an end to the black market cannabis industry."
Bonin emphasized she is a longtime republican, and that those in attendance represent all sides of the political sphere. Numerous attendees eagerly shared with FOX26 their stories of how cannabis use has impacted their lives positively.
"Prohibition empowers the cartels," said attendee and NORML supporter Gilbert Garcia, a lawyer in Montgomery County who represents misdemeanor marijuana offenders. "It doesn't protect us."
While Ogg's policy is a clear win for the group's mission, the group says they have plenty of work to do this year supporting several bills going before state legislators that could further change marijuana regulation across Texas.
During the meeting, Bonin made a point to remind all attendees to be respectful in response to the new law by remembering not all Houstonians are as supportive or comfortable with changes to marijuana policy or use.
Have thoughts on marijuana policies? Have an experience related to cannabis you'd like to tell? Share your thoughts and stories on reporter Kaitlin Monte's facebook page at: facebook.com/kaitlinmonte