Candidate Ogg’s ‘G.R.A.C.E. Program’ will divert low-level marijuana offenders away from harsh criminal penalties. RAMP supports an open dialogue about marijuana criminal penalties during the election season.
(Houston, TX) – RAMP supports an open dialogue about criminal penalties for marijuana possession, furthered today by Democratic Candidate for District Attorney Kim Ogg’s announcement about her proposed ‘G.R.A.C.E. Program’ to divert low-level marijuana offenders from a jail term to a community service requirement. Additionally, Ogg’s plan includes the implementation of “Cite and Release,” which sets up a system for police officers to ticket a marijuana possession suspect rather than arrest.
The Texas Legislature passed HB 2319 in 2007 which allowed for counties to “Cite and Release” certain misdemeanors, including marijuana possession of 0 to 4 ounces. To be implemented at the local level, the district attorney must spearhead the effort. Currently, the penalty for marijuana possession of 0 to 2 ounces is a class B misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and $2,000 in fines. For 2 to 4 ounces, the state imposes a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and $4,000 in fines. The drug charge remains on the individual’s criminal record for life.
Ogg’s plan will affect over 12,000 individuals arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Harris County each year. Rather than tie up a law enforcement officer for three or more hours during an arrest and booking into jail, the officer will instead issue a citation and have his shift available for patrol.
The offenders that receive a citation will return before a judge where, under Ogg’s G.R.A.C.E. Program, they will have a plea option of two days of community service. If the service is successfully completed, the class A or class B misdemeanor will be dismissed by the District Attorney’s office without the offender having to reappear in court. The offender will be able to have the citation expunged from their record under Texas’ current expungement laws.
“RAMP supports the goal to limit criminal records of the overwhelmingly young population that is arrested for marijuana possession,” says John Baucum, Political Director for RAMP. “Criminal records unnecessarily inhibit many young Houstonians from finding work and fulfilling their economic potential.”
RAMP encourages District Attorney Devon Anderson to clarify her position on handling low-level marijuana possession offenders, which was last addressed by her office in response to Governor Rick Perry’s comments on decriminalization of marijuana. She stated, “I echo Governor Perry’s support for drug counseling and lesser sentences for marijuana users in Texas.”
RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition) is a nonprofit organization and political caucus within the GOP working to educate and connect with lawmakers, party leadership, and grassroots activists. We support efforts to bring marijuana out of the black-market and into safe, legal, and regulated use by doctors for compassionate medical care and storefronts for adult recreational use. RAMP was founded in 2012 by Bob and Ann Lee. Learn more at www.RAMPGOP.org.