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Houston, Texas: Marijuana Decriminalization Fires Up January 1, 2016

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As 2016 shapes up to be a watershed year for marijuana legalization around the United States – police in Houston, Texas will no longer be arresting those first-time offenders found in possession of small amounts of marijuana.

That’s right; as of January 1, 2016 police in in America’s fourth most populous metropolitan area will begin to cite-and-release first-time offenders caught with less than 2 ounces of weed. Thanks to the “1st Chance Intervention Program” mandated by the Harris County D.A., police in Houston will begin to hand out citations to those caught with no more than two ounces of stash; sending first-time offenders on their merry way… rather than jail.

Obviously, there’s a catch; low-level smokers issued pot citations will be obligated to attend a drug diversion program – primarily consisting of class time and community service. And once the program has been satisfactorily completed, defendants will have a clean record and face no additional punishment.

Currently in the Lone Star State, getting caught with two ounces of pot (or less) is categorized as a criminal misdemeanor. Those busted with marijuana in Houston face the ugly reality of serving up to 180 days in jail, paying a $ 2,000 fine, and the life altering certainty of having a criminal record.

Five years ago, Texas politicians passed legislation authorizing local police departments the ability to cite low-level offenders, as opposed to arresting them. Predictably, the majority of Texas law enforcement chose to continue making arrests, ignoring the law’s passage.

Over the past couple of years, politicians in states like Maryland, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. have passed and implemented decriminalization legislation, in the hopes of discouraging their local police from continuing to make low-level pot arrests.

On an annual basis in the Cowboy Capital of the World, police arrest an estimated 75,000 marijuana consumers for violating the state’s antiquated marijuana laws. Giving Texas the unfortunate distinction of being the state with the second highest marijuana incarceration rate in the nation.

Per an October 2015 poll, 57 percent of Texans want marijuana decriminalized.

(Photo Courtesy of San Marcos Mercury)

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