By: Marie Scarci | February 23, 2023
On May 6th, San Antonio residents will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that could decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. If passed, this municipal initiative would mark an unprecedented shift in criminal justice policy and potentially set new standards for other cities across the state.
Ground Game Texas has achieved a major success, as this advocacy group demonstrated its strength in numbers by successfully collecting over 35,000 signatures from voters to have the measure qualify for placement on the local ballot.
In an effort to reduce low-level marijuana arrests, a new measure has been proposed that would prohibit law enforcement from considering the smell of cannabis as probable cause for any searches.
Texas citizens were recently given the opportunity to cast their ballots on cannabis-related measures in half a dozen cities. Unexpectedly, Harker Heights councilmembers swiftly voted to repeal it, allowing local voters a chance later this year to uphold or reject that decision. Additionally, Killeen lawmakers removed language prohibiting police from searching based on smell alone during an amendment process of its law. It is yet unclear what outcome these votes will bring for Texas' pot policy landscape as we start to see more cities move toward decriminalization.
San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia has made it clear that his office is likely to ignore a potential ordinance if passed by voters this election season. He believes city authorities lack the power to meddle in state drug laws and enforcement thereof.
In Texas, marijuana possession can land you in jail and with a hefty $2,000 fine. With the highest rate of arrests amongst all states for cannabis-related offenses, African Americans are disproportionately affected by this ruling--proving that social equity disparities continue to plague our legal system today.
Jax James, Executive Director of Texas NORML said, “Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box.”
He went on to talk about how statewide marijuana reforms are needed in Texas to bridge the gap between an existing patchwork of local policies and the state’s antiquated prohibition stance. Such reform would ensure that all citizens receive similar protections from law enforcement while freeing up resources for more impactful crime prevention initiatives. It is time lawmakers step up and bring much-needed change across Texas.
The majority of Texans support legislation to legalize cannabis and with more states jumping on board it's only a matter of time before Texas joins the many other states in legalizing cannabis. The Lone Star State must cut the red tape and come to terms with the growing momentum of cannabis reform.