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Houston Officials Set New Cannabis Tone in Texas

January 4, 2017

The new year has brought a dramatic change of tone regarding the enforcement of marijuana laws in Texas. Earlier this week, new Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg declared that her office would no longer seek to put small-time cannabis offenders in jail. During her swearing-in ceremony on Monday, she said that “all misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases will be diverted around jail.”

Ogg added: “I’ve never felt good about putting marijuana users in the same jail cells as murderers. It’s just not fair, it doesn’t make any sense, and our country is resoundingly against that.”

Harris County incorporates Houston, the state’s largest city, where new Police Chief Art Acevedo voiced support for cannabis law reform last week.

During a local radio interview, Acevedo said he believes in the next few years Texas will see a “rigorous review” of the medical benefits of cannabis.  He shared his thoughts on 90.1 KPFT’s Cultural Baggage Program, hosted by Dean Becker, last Friday.

“I think you’ll have a really spirited but well-informed discussion, and at some point I could really foresee, in the future, marijuana and some other oils being legalized for medicinal purposes; it will probably be the first step in Texas,” Acevedo said during the program, which was pre-recorded in Houston.

The chief said that it’s important to focus on the big-time players in the drug trade, and those who are harming local communities.

“For those that are involved in the violence of the drug trade, that’s who I want to focus on,” he said. “I want to focus on the people that are the big movers and shakers that are poisoning young people.”

The chief also added he would like to implement a program he used in Austin, where he served as police chief before moving to Houston. That program focused on giving low level street corner drug dealers a second chance. Mainly, under the program, dealers were given an offer: Their charges would be conditionally set aside if they enter a program, turn their lives around, and obey the law.

If they did not, then the charges would be subsequently reinstated.

Adult use and medical marijuana are currently illegal in Texas. The state has a CBD-only law, passed on June 1, 2015. The law was aimed to help treat seizures, and allows three companies to get licenses to grow and distribute low-THC medicine to patients with epilepsy in Texas. The medicine can contain no more than 0.5% THC.

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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