HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg rolled out her plan flanked by politicians and top Harris County law enforcement, saying the battle against low-level marijuana possession has been an expensive failure.
“We have spent over $250 million. That's a quarter of a billion dollars prosecuting a crime that has produced no tangible evidence of improved public safety,” Ogg said.
According to her Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, people caught with less than four ounces of marijuana and who qualify will get referred to a 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 don't qualify. Undocumented people who have ID actually can qualify. If you complete the class, the whole thing goes away.
Some Houstonians tell us they like the plan.
“Everybody's young and dumb and they're gonna make mistakes. You live, you learn. Don't ruin lives because of it,” said Qualynn Moore
“Why don't we get with the times and learn how to handle it,” added Hector Ruiz.
Not everyone is a fan. Even before Ogg rolled out the plan, Montgomery County DA Brett Ligon warned it would make Harris County a drug haven and said a DA doesn't have the right to pick and choose what laws to enforce.
"Play your position, Ms Ogg. You chiefs of police, play your positions. Sheriff, play your position, “ Ligon said.
Ogg insists she does have the right to decide how to prosecute such offenses. She also says the 10,000 people a year prosecuted for marijuana offenses clog up the courts, the jails and take officers off the streets.
Chief Art Acevedo agrees.
“I think when the people use their intellect and not their emotions, they will realize this makes sense for the right reasons,” Acevedo said.
He says a similar program reduced crime when he was in Austin.
The program goes into effect March 1. It's a work in progress. Ogg says they will make adjustments as they see fit.