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WIRE: Houston police to halt marijuana possession charges

Houston, TX: Police in America’s fourth largest city will cease filing criminal charges in marijuana possession cases as part of a mandatory, countywide program effective January 1, 2016.

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The Harris County District Attorney’s office announced that all first-time marijuana offenders found in the possession of two ounces or less must be offered the opportunity to participate in a pre-trial intervention program. Those offenders who elect to participate in the program, which consists of class work and community service, will not have criminal charges formally filed against them. Those who complete the program will not be charged with a crime and they will not possess a criminal record.

Only first-time offenders will be eligible for the program.

Texas law classifies the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal record.

Currently, law enforcement in only a handful of Harris County are electing to participate in the program, known as the First Chance Intervention Program. On January 1, 2016, police throughout the county must offer defendants the opportunity to participate in the program.

Commenting on the policy, Harris County D.A. Devon Anderson said: “[It] frees up space in jail. It minimizes the administrative burden that officers face when filing charges. It reduces the cost for prosecution and court proceedings. And of course, it gives the offender an opportunity to have a completely clean record. When we don’t offer it until after the offender is charged, we lose a lot of the best benefits of the program.”

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit: http://www.houstonnorml.org.

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