- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Authorities in the state’s most populous county are starting a new program that will give non-violent first time offenders caught with a small amount of marijuana a chance to avoid a conviction.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced Wednesday that her office, along with Houston police and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office will offer a new initiative called “First Chance Intervention Program.”

Under the program, first-time offenders with no prior criminal history who possess up to two ounces of marijuana can avoid being charged if they successfully complete eight hours of community service or an eight-hour class.

Anderson says the new program will help thousands avoid prosecution “which can have a damaging effect on an individual’s ability to obtain employment, housing and much more.”

The program begins on Monday.

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