Harris County’s Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program goes into effect today. It will divert those caught with small amounts of marijuana from jail to a county educational class.
No charges if caught with less than 4 ounces
There will be no arrest, citation, charge, jail or record for those caught possessing up to four ounces of marijuana if they enter a voluntary diversion program, Harris County officials said. If less than four ounces of cannabis is found on a person, the person will have to take a four-hour educational class called “Cognitive Decision Making” within 90 days. Once the class is done, no charge is ever filed.
$10 million in annual taxpayer savings
The program is expected to save Harris County more than $10 million per year by diverting an estimated 12,000 people from the criminal justice system and would save officers hours of processing time spent on misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, the statement said. The new policy will ease the workload on administrators and jailers who transfer and process inmates.
The person must pay a $150 fee and not break the law while in the program in addition to completing the four-hour class.
Individuals caught with four ounces or less of marijuana who are on probation, out on bond, caught in a school zone or who are juveniles are not eligible for the program. If a person is currently enrolled in the program and is caught with possession once again, they may not restart the program.
Those who are at least 17 years old, have no additional charges stemming from the arrest other than Class C misdemeanor tickets and have no outstanding warrants are eligible for the program.
Charges filed if program not completed
If a person does not complete the program within 90 days, an arrest warrant will be issued in the person’s name and criminal charges will be filed by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.