Houston will decriminalize low-level marijuana possession on March 1. County officials stated that the change will be made because arresting marijuana offenders delivered “no tangible public safety benefit.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg outlined a policy indicating that in most circumstances there will be no jail time, tickets, court appearances, or criminal record imposed on those found in possession of less than four ounces (113 grams) of marijuana in Houston and the surrounding Harris County.
More than two dozen states have legalized a form of marijuana for medical or recreational use, but the drug remains illegal under federal law and within Texas. The county announced the new initiative as the “Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program” and stated that it applies to individuals 17 and older who do not face additional charges.
The motivation for the new program was partly financial. The county has spent more than $200 million in the past 10 years on more than 100,000 cases of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases that clog courts and jails, says Ogg. Reports have also stated that decriminalization is aimed at preventing county residents from being denied services due to their criminal record, such as education, housing, and employment.
How does this affect employers?
Employers should always stay up to date on their area’s drug policies. In this case, there are a few facts to keep in mind after March 1.
- If offenders take the mandated drug course, the offense will not appear on an applicant’s criminal record. This means you will not see it on a background check.
- The policy in no way affects drug-testing policies. Employers can still drug test at set intervals or randomly.
- Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and in Texas.
Are you concerned about employee drug use in your business? Give KRESS a call today to schedule an on-site drug testing solution.