March 1 deadline to register for Harris County 'pot classes' fast approaching

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Deadline looks for marijuana classes (KTRK)

The "Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program" gives folks a shot at a second chance. But in order to utilize it, you must act by March 1.

"It really is a cutting edge program for Texas," Nathan Beedle explained.

Beedle, Misdemeanor Division Chief for the Harris County District Attorney's Office, says numerically, the weed classes make sense. They save time and money when it comes to prosecution, which trickles down to us.

"This saves upwards of 10,000 inmates being in the jail, the man hours to watch them, feed them, clothe them, do everything. We're talking about savings of cost to Harris County and specifically protecting the community as a result," Beedle continued.

The program rolled out in 2017 when District Attorney Kim Ogg took over, and so far, we're told, it's been successful.

The process itself is simple. If you're in simple possession of four ounces or less of weed, with no intent to sell, you have the option to pay $150 and take a four-hour class instead of going to jail.

It's an olive branch the district attorney's office encourages everyone to take advantage. Each year, the county spends about $26 million prosecuting 10,000 misdemeanor marijuana, but more non-violent drug offenders taking these classes equals more manpower to go after harder criminals.

"If you just take the person hours of my prosecutors alone, typically, you're one to two hours per marijuana case. That's 8,000 hours that I can apply to people who've been hurt. We need as many people to get this done as soon as possible. I cannot overstate that. I will get no joy in issuing a warrant for an arrest, but we will do so," Beedle said.

The classes are available Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 49 San Jacinto in downtown Houston. If the district attorney's office feels it needs to add more to accommodate the demand, it will do so. Remember, you must complete your class before March 1.

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