Ground Game Texas held a press event on May 25, announcing that the group has collected enough signatures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. Only 1,000 valid signatures were necessary, but the group collected over 2,400 signatures for submission.
Ground Game Texas was founded in 2021 and seeks to organize and educate Texas communities to fight for issues such as increased minimum wages, Medicaid expansion plans, and cannabis legalization, to name a few. A part of their mission is to consistently inform voters of these issues year-round, and to avoid taking “off-years.”
Executive Director and Co-founder of Ground Game Texas, Julie Oliver, released a statement about the initiative, which is called the Killeen Freedom Act of 2022. “In a quickly growing and thriving community like Killeen, there’s no excuse for the continued over-policing and incarceration of community members for marijuana use,” Oliver said. “On the heels of voters approving our similar initiative in Austin last week, we’re proud to give Killeen voters the same opportunity to end enforcement of marijuana offenses–which disproportionally hurts diverse communities like Killeen.” If passed, this particular initiative would decriminalize cannabis in Killeen, a central Texas town located north of Austin, which no longer allows police to issue class A or class B misdemeanors for cannabis possession.
On May 9, the organization shared that voters in Austin passed Proposition A (also called the Austin Freedom Act) with 85.80% “yes” vote, which decriminalizes cannabis and also prohibits no-knock warrants. “I want to stress that this *would not have happened* if volunteers working in an ‘off year’ hadn’t grabbed clipboards and hit the pavement to gather the 20,000 signatures it took to put this up for a vote,” Oliver stated about the organization’s constant advocacy, according to the Austin Chronicle.
Ground Game Texas is also targeting other local cities of Harker Heights, San Marcos, and Denton for cannabis decriminalization measures as well, with a total of 10 ballot campaigns that the organization is working on.
A new Texas poll, as reported by The Dallas Morning News in May, states that 83% of Texans want to legalize medical cannabis and 60% want to legalize adult-use consumption. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has previously announced his support of reducing penalties for possession, but not legalization. “Marijuana is now a Class C misdemeanor in the state of Texas and so one thing that that I believe in—and I believe the state legislature believes in—and that is prison and jail is a place for dangerous criminals who may harm others, and small possession of marijuana is not the type of violation that we want to stockpile jails with,” Abbott said in January.
Last June, Abbott signed House Bill 1535 to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, which went into effect in September 2021. Now, patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or all types of cancer can seek relief through the Texas Compassionate Use Program. The program already included qualifying conditions such as intractable epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, terminal cancer, autism, and seizure disorders.
However, medical cannabis advocates shared their disappointment in the state’s limitations. Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, expressed the need for more support. “While we are glad to see the Compassionate Use Program being expanded, it’s disappointing to see Texas inching forward while other states, like Alabama, for example, are moving forward with real medical cannabis programs,” said Fazio. “It’s doing so little, and we wish [lawmakers] were doing more.”