Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced her office’s radical approach to enforcing low-level marijuana possession laws: Cite and release! This new policy has basically de-criminalized marijuana in the 4th largest city in the United States. Basically, what the new enforcement policy means is: If you are stopped by the police and have less than four ounces of marijuana in your possession you will NOT be arrested, you will NOT be detained, and you will NOT even be ticketed. The police will of course seize and destroy your marijuana, and you’ll have to take a four-hour drug class, but there is no jail time for you today. This is fantastic news coming out of an office that as recently as a few years ago aggressively prosecuted low-level marijuana possessors to the full extent of the laws.

Why is this important? Why do we care? Because this takes the focus off of what many people believe to be a non-dangerous, non-threatening, and non-critical crime and focuses scarce time and resources elsewhere. This new policy saves money by accomplishing several things:

  1. Police officers are no longer wasting time by arresting, transporting, and processing citizens for low-level marijuana possession.
  2. Courts are no longer wasting time and money by having these cases on their dockets.
  3. The District Attorney’s office is no longer wasting time, money, and resources prosecuting these cases, and can therefore concentrate on more serious crimes.
  4. The citizens of Harris County no longer need to fear going to jail, having to go to court, being aggressively prosecuted, and being labeled a criminal for the rest of their lives for possession of a plant.

So, hats off to you, Ms. Ogg. Congratulations on taking Houston into the new year with a progressive, intelligent, well-planned policy change that benefits all involved. Well, except for defense attorneys that used to take marijuana possession cases.