Photo: Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle, Yi-Chin Lee
T. Watson is secretary of the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Smoke a joint as an adult at home in Los Angeles, and it’s perfectly legal. Carry pot in Fayetteville, Ark., and you might get a warning from police. Caught with marijuana in Philly? Pay a civil fine.
Pack a bowl in Houston starting Wednesday, and you could end up in drug education class for four hours.
A new policy set to roll out this week puts Harris County at the forefront of national efforts to keep small-time pot smokers out of jail, joining a growing move to relax or eliminate criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Anyone found with less than 4 ounces — a misdemeanor under Texas law — now will have the option to avoid criminal charges altogether.
It’s one of the “more extensive pretrial marijuana diversion programs in the nation,” said Miriam Krinsky, a board member of Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project. “This is the first of many steps by prosecutors … to advance thoughtful, smart and fair approaches to criminal justice practices.”
Rules vary from city to city and state to state. Eight states and the District of Columbia have made even recreational use of marijuana legal, and 20 other states have approved medical marijuana. In states where pot is not legal, some cities and counties have instead replaced jail time with fines or