You are here
Home > News > Austin, Texas Cannabis Decriminalization Initiative Set for Ballot in May

Austin, Texas Cannabis Decriminalization Initiative Set for Ballot in May

Austin officials have given their approval to the cannabis decriminalization initiative that will appear on an upcoming Texas ballot.

On January 18, the Austin City Council in Texas voted to allow the ballot initiative known as the “Austin Freedom Act of 2021” on the upcoming special election on May 7. The Act will stop local law enforcement from convicting residents of low-level cannabis offenses, and will prohibit “no knock” warrants by police as well.

Ground Game Texas, a Texas-based organization, supports this initiative. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of the on-the-ground organizers from Ground Game Texas and partner organizations, Austin residents will soon have the ability to make lasting change to our antiquated and racist criminal justice laws,” said Ground Game Texas Political Director Mike Siegel when the organization first received approval from the City Clerk in December 2021. “With successful campaigns like these, Ground Game Texas will continue to empower and excite communities around progressive change—and deliver for the marginalized communities that too often get left behind.”

Although only 20,000 signatures were required, the group collected 33.3332 signatures. A state law mandates that at least 25 percent of signatures randomly chosen must be confirmed. That number came to 8,334 signatures. 2.455 of those were rejected due to missing or duplicate signatures. The remaining 5.879 completed the test.

Further celebration was in order when GGT received news that their petition was approved on January 10, followed by the city council’s approval on January 18.

“It’s official! Austin will hold an April 7, 2022 election on the Austin Freedom Act. Voters will be able to pass a new city law that (1) ends enforcement of marijuana possession and (2) bans dangerous ‘no knock’ warrants. Thank you to everyone who got us this far—now let’s win!” the organization wrote on Twitter. GGT then shared details on local advocacy that could be used to help support the cause in Texas as it fights for decriminalization.

The Austin Police Department originally announced the end of cannabis convictions back in 2020, stating that citations would only be given “unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so is part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony,” according to KVUE. The Austin Freedom Act of 2021 makes decriminalization official, stating that if passed by voters, Class A or Class B possession offenses would not be issued by law enforcement unless the situation involves a high priority “felony level narcotics case” or “investigation of a violent felony.”

Furthermore, if passed, the Act would ban “no knock” warrants. “’No knock’ search warrants shall not be used. No Austin police officer may request, execute, or participate in the execution of any search warrant that does not require the officer to knock and announce their presence and wait at least 15 seconds prior to execution.”

Texas legalizes only medical cannabis. In July 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill1535 into law. This updated the state’s medical cannabis program. This expanded to include post-traumatic stress disorder and all types of cancer as qualifying conditions to register in the state’s medical cannabis program. It also raised the THC limitation from 0.5 percent THC to “one percent by dry weight.”

The Texas Supreme Court raised the issue of smokable cannabis in January. This effectively challenged the ban. Lora Livingston, the judge in chief, ruled that banning smokeable hemp was unconstitutional and issued an injunction prohibiting Texas Department of Health Services (TDHS) from applying it.