A move to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana has emerged as a major issue in the contentious race for Harris County District attorney with both candidates claiming ownership of the idea, the Houston Chronicle reports. Republican Devon Anderson, the incumbent, said that beginning Monday, non-violent first offenders carrying less than 2 ounces of marijuana will be able to escape prosecution by performing eight hours of community service or going through a drug awareness class. “We are targeting the people we believe are self-correcting and will be ‘scared straight’ by being handcuffed and transported,” she said. “Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system.”
The announcement, a month before Anderson faces Democrat Kim Ogg in November’s election for district attorney, brought harangues from the challenger, who in August announced her idea for dealing with misdemeanor marijuana possession. “This is not a new plan,” Ogg said. “It’s a ‘me too’ program by a candidate who has shifted her position with the winds of political change.” If elected, Ogg has said, police officers will simply ticket misdemeanor marijuana suspects, even repeat offenders, and require them to spend two days picking up litter around Houston’s bayous. Ogg said her program would save an average of $10 million a year in jail, court and prosecution costs by diverting about 12,000 offenders annually.