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Five Texas Cities to Vote on Decriminalization this Year

Texas could see a significant year, with five decriminalization initiatives on the November ballots for five cities. Even though there is slow progress, it appears this year will be big for Texas’ decriminalization efforts. 

Last week, Harker Heights activists joined forces with the progressive group Ground Game TexasThe city announced it has collected enough signatures to place a local decriminalization bill on its ballot. They are now the fifth Texas municipality to have done so. Austin is the model city for all of them. Austin has already passed decriminalization. 

Advocates needed to get signatures from over 25% of registered voters in order to appear on Harker Heights’ ballot. They exceeded that goal.

“Following the success of Prop A in Austin and the recent securing of ballot initiatives in Killeen and San Marcos, Ground Game Texas is proud to give Harker Heights residents the opportunity to decriminalize marijuana,” Julie Oliver, the organization’s executive director, claimed, according to a press release. “Ground Game Texas continues to demonstrate that popular policies around issues like workers, wages, and weed can help expand and electrify the electorate in Texas when they’re put directly in front of voters.”

The goal with the Harker Heights Freedom Act is to ensure that “police officers shall not issue citations or make arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses,” except in certain circumstances such as a violent felony or a felony-level narcotics case that has been “designated as a high priority investigation” by the police. The Harker Heights Freedom Act is designed to focus only on drug trafficking of high level, and not ordinary users.

If this measure passes, it would also ensure that police can’t give out citations to folks who simply have resonated or otherwise used paraphernalia. It will prevent the police from citing anyone who has small amounts or a simple pipe. 

To make this measure a reality city officials must still authorize signatures, and verify that they are valid, before it can be added to the ballot. The initiative in question is only one of many to reform cannabis policy in one city. There is currently no way to include this on the Texas ballot. 

Austin has shown that such a process works in the past when it approved a referendum measure decriminalizing cannabis. Ground Game Texas was responsible for the ban on no-knock warrants being used by police. 

Mano Amiga (criminal justice reform) is also a partner of the group. They are committed to helping cannabis consumers. They worked together to make certain there were enough signatures for San Marcos’ decriminalization ballot to continue the reform sweep throughout the state. 

Ground Game Texas also reported in May that Killeen activists had collected enough signatures for decriminalization to be on the ballot. The activists in Denton have also collected sufficient signatures. Once they’re verified, the hope is that this will also be on the ballot. Finally, Elgin signature collectors have collected sufficient signatures. 

These proposals can be enacted by local city officials as municipal laws in each of the cities. This could allow legalization to spread faster.

Texas’ slow approach to decriminalization, one town at a time is a sign that hearts and minds are shifting and that legalization may soon become a national reality.