Austin, Texas: Voters in five Texas cities will decide this November on local ballot measures to end low-level marijuana possession arrests.
Activists with the group Ground Game Texas successfully gathered signatures from voters in the cities of Denton (population: 140,000), Elgin (population: 10,000), Harker Heights (32,000), Killeen (149,000), and San Marcos (64,000) to place marijuana-related questions before local lawmakers. In each instance, councilmembers moved to defer the issue to the November ballot.
The measures seek to amend local laws so that police officers can no longer “issue citations or make arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses” absent defendants’ alleged involvement in a “felony level narcotics” case. If voters approve the proposals, police will still be permitted to confiscate cannabis from those who possess it in small quantities.
In May, voters in Austin overwhelmingly approved a similar municipal measure depenalizing marijuana possession and prohibiting police from executing ‘no knock’ warrants.
Texas law does not allow for statewide, citizen-initiated measures.
Statewide polling finds that 67 percent of Texans, including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, support legalizing the sale and use of marijuana.
Under state law, minor marijuana possession is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days incarceration and a $2,000 fine. Texas police made an estimated 219,000 marijuana-related arrests between 2017 and 2021. Ninety-seven percent of those arrested were charged with possession only.
Additional information on 2022 state and local marijuana-related ballot initiatives is available from NORML’s Election Central.