The decision of Harris County to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana has put the county on a collision course with some state officials.
The policy was announced earlier this year by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. It came into effect on March 1. The policy means possession of fewer than four ounces of marijuana won’t lead to an arrest, a ticket or an appearance in court.
The Texas Tribune reported Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized the policy. He compared the marijuana decriminalization issue to “sanctuary” policies in which cities protect undocumented immigrants.
Reports said Patrick does not think law enforcement has the discretion to make a decision on which laws to enforce or to ignore.
Some state officials are fuming at Harris County’s forthcoming policy to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, while others say local jurisdictions should have discretion when it comes to enforcing laws.
The Houston Chronicle reported Ogg alluded to wasted resources in enforcing possession of small amounts of marijuana. She pointed out Harris County spends $25 million a year for the past decade locking up people who had less than 4 ounces of marijuana in their possession. She said these resources can be better spent arresting serious criminals such as robbers, burglars, and rapists. Ogg said:
“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. We have disqualified, unnecessarily, thousands of people from a greater job, housing, and educational opportunities by giving them a criminal record for what is, in effect, a minor law violation.”
While states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have legalized marijuana, bids to make the drug legal in Texas have foundered. Even attempts to make medical marijuana legal in the Lone Star State have been unsuccessful. At the national level, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a strong stance against the legalization of marijuana possession.
The TV station KENS5 reported support for marijuana legalization in Texas is increasing, especially for people who suffer from medical conditions.
If you have been charged with a drug offense in Texas, you could be facing a long sentence. Find out more about drugs crimes on our Tarrant County criminal defense lawyers website or call us today.