LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Despite being 2 hours north of Houston where a change in marijuana case policy is changing, East Texas prosecutors believe the current way of handling misdemeanor marijuana cases will stay the same.
Yesterday, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced a new policy on handling cases. The policy would begin March 1. Offenders with less than four ounces will not be ticketed or required to appear in court if they agree to take a four hour drug education class.
According to KTRK TV, Harris County spends approximately $26 million a year prosecuting 10,000 marijuana cases and another $13 million housing those offenders for an average of 6 days in jail.
Nacogdoches County Attorney John Fleming said he understands why Ogg would implement the policy but believes policies in place work in East Texas. Fleming noted a cultural difference in rural East Texas as a major part.
Angelina County District Attorney Joe Martin said the news was a surprise to him and he is not in favor of it.
"If Mrs. Ogg doesn't want to prosecute the law she ought to be district attorney in Bolder Colorado and not Harris County, Texas," martin said.
Joe has worked in both felony and misdemeanor courts and said it is not his place to decide what to enforce.
"The state legislature decides the law and it is my job as district attorney to enforce it," Martin said. "I don't think there is any question that marijuana is a gateway drug. I've never dealt with anybody who is on hard drugs that didn't start with marijuana."
In Angelina county, misdemeanor cases are handled by County Attorney Carry Kirby. Kirby said despite a movement to change drug laws, he took an oath to uphold the laws of the state.
"I know there is a nation wide movement to lessen the charges or do away with them completely but at this time that is still the law in our jurisdiction," Kirby said. "If the state changes the law then we will do what is needed."
In Nacogdoches County, Fleming's office has a pre-trial diversion program set up for young first time offenders.
"They must apply for the program and be accepted and sign an oath," Flemning said. "The program has drug counseling and testing. I think it has the same effects as what Harris County is doing but it has more accountability."
Martin believes the plan is overstepping the law.
"I could keep a lot of cases out of court if I decided I wasn't going to prosecute certain crimes," Martin said. "That's not what my job is."
Until any change is made, law enforcement will continue their current duties.
"We'll make the arrest and we'll file the charge," Angelina County Sheriff Captain Alton Lendermann said. "Then it is up to the court system on where they go from there. i can tell you from what we are hearing, drugs are not tolerated because of the effects they have on our children."