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Houston’s District Attorney Defends Move to Decriminalize Marijuana

Maureen Meehan

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While Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushes his tough-on-weed agenda, one Texas District Attorney is sticking to her decision to decriminalize small amounts of pot.

Kim Ogg, Houston’s first Democratic DA in nearly four decades, lost no time in declaring that she was not interested in locking up people for small amounts of pot.

While federal criminal justice reform has lagged on a national level for years, many local, recently elected officials are stepping up to the plate.

Kim Ogg is one of them.

In a politically conservative state like Texas, Ogg is in a constant showdown with Republican, mostly male, leaders who don’t like what she stands for nor where she stands for it: Houston, the lone state’s largest city.

“We represent a clear and present danger to the Republican power structure that’s basically ruled Texas for 30 years,” Ogg said earlier this month, according to the Guardian. “We effected a Democratic sweep in an otherwise deep red state and we were a national anomaly and I’m really proud of our work.”

Ogg referred to her pot decriminalization reform—not arresting people caught with less than four ounces of weed—as logical.

“The math is ridiculous,” she said of weed prosecutions, which cost more than $25 million a year to prosecute 10,000 people for low-level offenses.

“The return in terms of public safety has been nothing, nil,” she continued. “We are not a safer society or a greater Houston urban area because marijuana was aggressively prosecuted.”

Ogg also wants new bail procedures for minor offenses, so they can be released from jail, on personal bond, while they await trial.

As many as 75 percent of people in Houston’s county jail have not been convicted of a crime. Some take days to get bond while many others sit behind bars for years waiting to go to trial.

Ogg’s cash bail system foresees allowing non-violent defendants of limited means to plead guilty to get out of jail.

“Holding low-level offenders who can’t bond out because they’re too poor is against the basic principles of fairness,” Ogg said.

Sounds logical but what seems to severely annoy certain Texas Republicans and corporate big wigs is this statement of Ogg’s:

“I want poor people out of the jail if they don’t pose a safety threat to the rest of the community, and I don’t want rich criminals to be able to buy their way out simply because they have the money regardless of their threat level.”

In the past two months, there has been a flurry of bills, more than a dozen, now pending in the Texas Legislature this session. They are aimed at lifting prohibitions on Texans who choose to use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.

Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, conservative talk show host and champion of the “bathroom bill” in Texas, lashed out at Ogg’s decriminalization policy, implying that Houston was becoming the equivalent of a “sanctuary city” for pot.

Ogg was unfazed by the comments: “All I’ve done is divert 10,000 offenders a year around jail and a criminal record through a lawful process through pre-charge diversion.”

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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