Five Texas cities approve decriminalization initiatives on ballots
That effort passed with the help of Ground Game Texas, a local advocacy group that specifically targeted these five cities for voting. The organization has also been involved with other campaigns in Austin, El Paso and San Antonio. “Big night for Ground Game! All five of our cities want to pass marijuana decriminalization. Motivate new voters with popular, progressive issues!” the organization wrote on Facebook.
For Denton, the initiative was labeled Proposition B, but the other four cities listed their initiatives as Proposition A. Each of them issues an ordinance (rather than a resolution) to eliminate all subpoenas and arrests for cannabis possession, prevent local police from issuing subpoenas for drug paraphernalia or cannabis odor, and prohibit the city from approving funds for THC testing, among other things use.
According to Jax James, executive director of Texas NORML, the recent wave of voter approval shows that the people of Texas want statewide decriminalization. “Texans have shown through polls, legislative engagement and now at the local ballot box that they want major reforms to Texas cannabis laws!” said James. “This will have a positive impact on the nearly half a million people who live in these cities.” A poll in August also backed James’s point, showing that 55% of Texans support legalization of cannabis and 72% support medicinal cannabis.
In 2019, the Texas House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill, but it failed to make it through the Senate. James applauds the decriminalization gains he made in November’s election, but hopes his state will continue to make progress. “While these local advances are important to mitigating harm to citizens and reprioritizing law enforcement time, they result in a patchwork of differing marijuana enforcement policies by location,” James added. “It’s time for lawmakers to take steps to enact statewide reform when they meet in January 2023.”
In order of population, the five largest cities in Texas include Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Fort Worth. In May 2022, Austin voters passed the Austin Freedom Act, which also allowed for the decriminalization of cannabis. “It’s official! Austin will hold an Austin Freedom Act election on May 7, 2022. Voters may pass a new city law that (1) ends enforcement of marijuana possession and (2) bans dangerous warrants. Thank you everyone who got us this far – now let’s win!” Ground Game Texas wrote on social media in May.
Next could be the city of San Antonio, which may have decriminalization in May 2023. “These are all things that the city government, for whatever reason, has failed to achieve despite a public demand for them,” said Ground Mike Siegel, Game Texas co-founder and policy director. “That’s the beauty of this direct democracy tactic — the initiative tactic — where we can take something that people like and people can legislate directly.”
Although states like Maryland and Missouri legalized adult cannabis use this November, voters in North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas didn’t. With the exception of Virginia (and Washington, DC), few southern states currently allow adult use.
Meanwhile, Texas is falling behind in progress. In early August 2022, former NBA player Iman Shumpert was arrested in Dallas for possession. He was reportedly carrying 6.2 ounces of cannabis in his luggage as he traveled through the airport.
Recently, news outlets began picking up a story about a single mother, Candace McCarty, who was evicted from government-sponsored shelters for using medicinal cannabis. “I thought it was all legal because I got it legally from the state,” McCarty told Kxan.com. “I’m just a single mother with a disability, and I’m just trying to cope with… facing homelessness just before the holidays.” The federally illegal status of cannabis affects countless others like McCarty.