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Activists in Texas filed signatures on Wednesday to put a marijuana decriminalization initiative on Austin’s 2022 ballot.

Ground Game Texas, a progressive organization that was formed earlier this year, has submitted more than 30,000 signatures to qualify the local measure to go to voters in the May 7 election next year.

While Austin, along with other cities in Texas like Dallas, have already independently passed law enforcement policy changes aimed at reducing arrests for cannabis offenses by issuing subpoenas and summons, the Austin Freedom Act of 2021 would push reform a step further.

The initiative aims to end arrests and citations for possession of marijuana in the capital of Texas. In addition, it states that the police cannot issue citations for residue or paraphernalia in lieu of a possession charge.

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of Ground Game Texas field organizers and partner organizations, Austin residents will soon have the opportunity to make lasting changes to our archaic and racist criminal justice laws,” Mike Siegel, Political Director by Ground Game. Texas, said in a press release. “With successful campaigns like these, Ground Game Texas will continue to empower and inspire communities around progressive change and serve the marginalized communities that are too often left behind.”

The measure would further prohibit the use of city funds to request or test cannabis to determine whether it meets the state’s definition of a licit product. Hemp is legal in the state, creating complications for law enforcement as they are now responsible for determining whether seized cannabis products comply with state law.

As part of the move, the execution of no-knock warrants would also be banned in the city – a policy that garnered significant national attention last year after leading Kentucky officers into the apartment. of Breonna Taylor and shoot him during a botched drug raid.

The activists were joined by Austin City Council members Greg Casar and Vanessa Fuentes for Wednesday’s signing.

Game Ground Texas had previously tried to put the measure on this year’s ballot, but they missed the signing deadline and turned their attention to 2022.

While the measure is now due to appear on the May ballot, it is also possible that Austin city council could independently pass the ordinance ahead of the election.

“Austinites continue to work to reduce the decades of negative impact the ban has caused by any means available,” Jax Finkel, executive director of Texas NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “During the interim, local actions like this create pressure for more action in the next legislative session. With a majority of Texans supporting the creation of a regulated cannabis market, it’s important to keep moving this conversation forward. “

Elsewhere in the state, activists in San Marcos launched a campaign in September to put the decriminalization of marijuana on the ballot in November next year.

Ground Game Texas told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that it also plans to implement a cannabis decriminalization measure in front of Killeen voters next fall.

There is no statewide citizens’ initiative process that would allow advocates to put an issue like decriminalization or legalization on the Texas ballot. But at the local level, there are limited cases where activists can take advantage of autonomy laws that allow for policy changes.

A recent poll found that a strong majority of Texans, including most Republicans, support even broader reform to legalize marijuana for adult purposes.

The University of Houston and Texas Southern University survey found that 67% of Texas residents support the sweeping reform. Fifty-one percent of participants who identified as Republicans said they supported legalization.

In Texas, drug policy reform progressed through the legislature in the last session, but not necessarily at the rate advocates had hoped to see.

A bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and another requiring a study into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans have been passed.

Advocates, however, remain disappointed that lawmakers have not been able to pass more ambitious cannabis bills, including a decriminalization proposal that cleared the House but saw no action in the Senate.

The House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance to the Senate this session.

The Texas Republican Party passed a platform endorsing the decriminalization of marijuana possession in 2018.

Another Texas poll released over the summer found 60% of voters in the state support legalizing “all-purpose” cannabis.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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