Marijuana policies ease up in Harris County

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HARRIS COUNTY, Tex. (KHOU) - Starting next month, people caught with four ounces or less of marijuana in Harris County will not go to jail.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg made the announcement Thursday. The new program goes into effect March 1.

Ogg says that they aren't decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. Instead, she says it's a diversion program that is legal under state and federal law that will keep nonviolent people out of jail, save tax payer money and let law enforcement focus on going after more serious criminals.

According to the DA, this new policy will impact around 10,000 people a year. Whether or not it is a first offense, anyone caught with 4 ounces of marijuana or less will be required to take a $150 class designed to "help them make better choices". Financial help is available for those who cannot pay for the class. Class attendance is required within 90 days or will result in arrest.

Right now, Ogg says that the county spends $26 million a year prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases with no real difference in public safety.

There are several exceptions to the law, including people dealing drugs, committing a crime while in possession and people on bond or probation.

If anyone is caught with marijuana before March 1, the record won't be cleared.