I like the sound of this.
Kim Ogg, the Democratic nominee for Harris County district attorney, said Friday she will ticket and enforce community service for, instead of arrest and jail, thousands of people arrested each year in Houston for low-level marijuana possession.
“We can save up to 10 million dollars a year, folks,” Ogg told campaign supporters and reporters at a Friday news conference. “We think that taxpayers deserve to have their money spent wisely.”
Ogg said more than 12,000 people were charged in 2013 with marijuana possession of less than 4 ounces, then jailed for an average of five days, costing taxpayers $4.4 million a year.
Under her plan, if she is elected in November, those suspected of misdemeanor possession would be cited, have to go to court, then spend two days cleaning up litter. If the community service is successfully completed, offenders would not have a conviction on their record.
“This is the future of marijuana prosecution in Harris County,” she said. “Our tagline is ‘No jail, no bail, no permanent record, if you earn it.’ ”
This is a concept Ogg has discussed before, among other places in her interview with me for the primary. When President Obama made a statement back in January about pot not being more harmful than alcohol, Ogg supported that position. What matters about Ogg’s plan here is that the goal is to keep this kind of arrest off someone’s record, because being tagged with such an arrest, even for a tiny amount of pot, can have all kinds of negative effects for things like higher education, employment, child custody, and so on. Short of actual legalization, this is probably the best way to minimize the disproportionately serious consequences for such a minor offense.
What’s interesting is seeing DA Devon Anderson’s stance evolve over time. She was quite critical of President Obama’s words in January but was supportive when Rick Perry spoke about decriminalization a week later. In this story she said the DA’s office is working on something similar to Ogg’s proposal, which is as far as I know the first we’ve heard of that. This is to her credit, but I think it’s fair to say that Ogg was there first, and that Ogg has put more thought and planning into her idea. That’s probably why the group Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP), last seen opining in the Baker Blog about when marijuana might be legalized in Texas, sent out a press release applauding Ogg and calling on Anderson to “clarify her position on handling low-level marijuana possession offenders”. Kudos to Ogg for being front and center on this. Texpatriate and John Coby have more.