As reported by the Houston Chronicle, a move to replace criminal penalties with civil penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana surfaced Wednesday as a major issue in the contentious race for Houston’s Harris County District Attorney, with both candidates claiming ownership of the idea.
However, the details, purposes, and primary goal of the plan, claimed by both candidates, are fundamentally different.
Republican incumbent candidate, Devon Anderson, said that starting Monday, non-violent first offenders in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana will be able to avoid prosecution by performing eight hours of community service or by participating in a drug awareness class.
“We are targeting the people we believe are self-correcting and will be ‘scared straight’ by being handcuffed and transported. Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system,” stated Anderson.
Anderson’s recent announcement, a month away from November’s election, sparked political discourse from his challenger, Democrat Kim Ogg, who in August announced her own idea for handling misdemeanor marijuana possession. Her plan, if elected, is to have police officers fine misdemeanor marijuana suspects, even repeat offenders, and require them to spend two days cleaning up around Houston’s bayous. Her program is said to save an average of $10 million a year in jail, court, and prosecution costs by diverting around 12,000 offenders annually.