Houston District Attorney Kim Ogg, together with Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, announced on February 16 a decriminalized Marijuana policy starting March 1.
The new policy states they will not arrest, ticket, or require offenders to appear in court with less than four ounces of marijuana if they agree to partake in a four-hour drug education class.
“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,” Ogg 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.”
Causing stir among citizens, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick thought Ogg’s proposal will turn Houston to a sanctuary city on low-level drug crimes.
“The lieutenant governor has said repeatedly regarding sanctuary cities that he does not believe that law enforcement has the discretion to choose what laws to enforce and what laws to ignore,” said Patrick’s press secretary Alejandro Garcia. “That is his position regarding DA Ogg’s proposal.”
On the other hand, some community activists, including a contingent from Houston the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), commend the motion.
“We’ve been fighting for this for a while, so this is elating,” said Communications Director for the pro-marijuana group Sam Oser, who also campaigned for Ogg last year. “We’re very excited that she’s following through with her promises.”
The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), which organizes minority efforts in Harris County and two other counties, said the initiative could particularly help people of color.
“Jailing people for possessing small amounts of marijuana never made sense,” TOP Communications Director Mary Moreno stated in an email. “But it did invite racial profiling by making it easier to jail black men and people of color … Today justifies people’s faith in Kim Ogg.”