Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has issued a final deadline for those accused of misdemeanor possession of marijuana to attend a class to avoid being charged with a crime.
The call comes four months after Hurricane Harvey brought the criminal justice system to a standstill.
“There comes a time when everyone must be held accountable,” Ogg said in a statement released Thursday. “That time is now, as the Houston region has largely recovered from a storm of historic proportions.”
Suspects have until March 1 to complete a program, or warrants will be filed for their arrest, Ogg said.
The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, launched by Ogg in 2017, gives suspects caught with less than four ounces of marijuana up to 90 days to complete a four-hour class on decision-making.
Before the program, Ogg said, an average of 10,000 people a year were charged for misdemeanor marijuana possession.
“This exposed them to a criminal record limiting their job, housing and educational opportunities,” Ogg said. “Our community is safer when we keep people in the work force.”
Since the program began in March 2017, there have been 3,209 participants, according to the district attorney’s office. Instead of being arrested, those participants signed a pledge to take the class. Their marijuana was confiscated to be used as evidence against them in case they did not take the class.
In the past year, 1,415 people have completed the program. There are 978 people who are pending completion of the program, but still within their 90-day period.
And there are 816 people who have failed to complete the class on time.
“People have an opportunity to complete this class and get on with their lives,” Ogg said.
The district attorney’s office has said the program saves the county approximately $27 million a year that can be redirected toward fighting violent crimes and other offenses.
Those who need to take the class should go to the website www.go2gov.net/go/mmdp to register and pay the required $150 cost of the class.