From the start of 2016, America’s fourth largest city and their respective police force will stop filing any criminal charges against citizens for minor cannabis possession offences.
The District Attorney’s office has decided to steer policing in a more positive way with this latest directive. They will give anyone caught with 56 grams or less the chance to attend a pre-trial intervention program. Those who opt for this will not face any criminal charges, in return they will have to carry out community service and class work. This is excellent news as it means non violent drug offenders will not be given a criminal record which would impede them for their whole life.
This change to the law could not have came any faster for the people of Texas, they have the second highest total for cannabis arrests in the whole of America with nearly 75,000 people being charged annually. Under the previous law if caught with 56 grams or less you could face 180 days in jail or a $2000 fine. Texas tried to relax the laws around cannabis in 2007 when lawmakers permitted police to cite rather than arrest people for minor pot crimes, however police continued to arrest people and ignored their new option to cite.
In recent months, lawmakers in numerous metropolitan areas—including Philadelphia, as well as multiple counties in Florida—have implemented local ordinances to discourage police from making low-level pot arrests. It seems that Houston’s police force are following this trend and they stand to save a lot of money by not having to prosecute non violent drug offenders. It will also free up additional resources for them to go after violent criminals who pose a threat to society.