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District attorney candidates propose marijuana decriminalization

A fight for district attorney in Harris County has resulted in both candidates announcing measures that will decriminalize possession of marijuana in small quantities, although the plans put forth show fundamental differences. The decriminalization was first proposed in August by a democratic challenger to the district attorney's seat. On Oct. 1, the current DA announced that a six-month pilot program would begin on Oct. 6, reportedly allowing first-time offenders the chance to avoid prosecution if they are found with less than two ounces of marijuana.

Two ounces is the limit for a Class B misdemeanor, and under the new plan, eligible individuals will have three days to contact the county agency that keeps track of suspects who are released on bail. Individuals are still taken to the police station and fingerprinted. If they qualify, they must attend an alcohol education program or perform eight hours of community service in order to complete the program. The DA has said that the program will affect around 2,000 individuals at present but may expand to include other types of non-violent drug offenses.

If the challenger wins the race and puts her plan into place, she claims that around 12,000 people will be affected. The plan will reportedly ticket both first-time and repeat offenders, and the penalty will be participation in a litter cleanup program.

Individuals who are detained for a marijuana offense may wish to consult an attorney even if they are eligible for the program. An attorney can review the charges and the procedure to ensure that the individual's rights were observed. If their rights were violated, the charges may not be valid. If the charges are valid, an attorney can inform the individual about their options and assist in choosing the best course of action based on the situation.

Source: The Houston Chronicle, "First offenders could soon get a pass on pot", Brian Rogers, October 01, 2014

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