This year, at least five cities in Texas will be voting on decriminalization, providing a back-door approach to legalizing.
This could be a big year for Texas, as there are currently five different decriminalization measures on November ballots from five different cities. It appears that, even though progress is happening slowly, this will be a big year for decriminalization across the super-sized state.
Last week, activists in Harker Heights with the progressive group Ground Game Texas announced that they have collected enough signatures for a decriminalization measure on their local ballot, making them the fifth city to do so in Texas thus far. All of these cities will be following in the footsteps of Austin, a city that has successfully passed decriminalization.
In order to be on the ballot in Harker Heights, advocates needed signatures from more than 25% of registered voters, and they exceeded their goal.
“Following the success of Prop A in Austin and the recent securing of ballot initiatives in Killeen and San Marcos, Ground Game Texas is proud to give Harker Heights residents the opportunity to decriminalize marijuana,” Julie Oliver, the organization’s executive director, claimed, according to a press release. “Ground Game Texas continues to demonstrate that popular policies around issues like workers, wages, and weed can help expand and electrify the electorate in Texas when they’re put directly in front of voters.”
The goal with the Harker Heights Freedom Act is to ensure that “police officers shall not issue citations or make arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses,” except in certain circumstances such as a violent felony or a felony-level narcotics case that has been “designated as a high priority investigation” by the police. In other words, the goal is to only focus on high-level drug trafficking, not regular folks using cannabis.
If this measure passes, it would also ensure that police can’t give out citations to folks who simply have resonated or otherwise used paraphernalia. This will keep the system clear of those who either have small amounts of cannabis or simply a used pipe.
In order for this measure to become a reality, city officials will still need to formally authorize the signatures and ensure they are all valid before the measure makes it onto the ballot. This initiative is just one in a broader effort to enact cannabis policy reform one city at a time, since currently in Texas, there is no process to add this to the ballot statewide.
In the past, Austin proved that this process can work when the city approved a ballot measure to decriminalize cannabis. It also banned no-knock warrants by police in general, all thanks to the work from Ground Game Texas.
The group also works with Mano Amiga, a criminal justice reform group committed to freeing cannabis customers. They worked with them to make sure there were more than enough signatures to get decriminalization on the ballot in San Marcos as well, continuing the reform sweep across the state.
Also, in May, Ground Game Texas reported that activists got enough signatures to put decriminalization on the ballot for Killeen too. Similarly, activists have collected enough signatures in Denton as well, and once they are verified, hope to also get that added to the ballot. Lastly, signature collectors have also collected enough signatures in Elgin.
In each of these cities, local officials on city councils are also able to enact these proposals as municipal law instead of ballot measures, meaning legalization could spread even faster.
As Texas continues to take on decriminalization the slow way, one city at a time, hearts and minds are changing and the overall conversation of legalization is getting closer to become a reality nationwide.
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