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Local Texas Advocacy Group Collects Signatures for Decriminalization Initiative

Ground Game Texas announced that they have received enough signatures for November 2022. The group received more than 2,400 signatures, despite only needing 1,000 valid signatures.

Ground Game Texas, founded in 2021, aims to mobilize and educate Texas citizens to support issues such as higher minimum wages, Medicaid expansion plans and legalization of marijuana. A part of their mission is to consistently inform voters of these issues year-round, and to avoid taking “off-years.”

Julie Oliver, Ground Game Texas’ Executive Director and co-founder, issued a statement regarding the initiative. The Killeen Freedom Act of 2022 is the name of the bill. “In a quickly growing and thriving community like Killeen, there’s no excuse for the continued over-policing and incarceration of community members for marijuana use,” Oliver said. “On the heels of voters approving our similar initiative in Austin last week, we’re proud to give Killeen voters the same opportunity to end enforcement of marijuana offenses–which disproportionally hurts diverse communities like Killeen.” If passed, this particular initiative would decriminalize cannabis in Killeen, a central Texas town located north of Austin, which no longer allows police to issue class A or class B misdemeanors for cannabis possession.

On May 9, the organization shared that voters in Austin passed Proposition A (also called the Austin Freedom Act) with 85.80% “yes” vote, which decriminalizes cannabis and also prohibits no-knock warrants. “I want to stress that this *would not have happened* if volunteers working in an ‘off year’ hadn’t grabbed clipboards and hit the pavement to gather the 20,000 signatures it took to put this up for a vote,” Oliver stated about the organization’s constant advocacy, according to the Austin Chronicle.

Ground Game Texas has also targeted other nearby cities like Harker Heights, San Marcos and Denton to promote cannabis decriminalization. There are a total of 10 ballot campaign that the group is currently working on.

As reported by The Dallas Morning News In May, 83% of Texans wanted to legalize medicinal cannabis while 60% said they would legalize adult-use marijuana. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Governor. He has stated previously that he supports reducing the penalties for possession of marijuana but not legalization. “Marijuana is now a Class C misdemeanor in the state of Texas and so one thing that that I believe in—and I believe the state legislature believes in—and that is prison and jail is a place for dangerous criminals who may harm others, and small possession of marijuana is not the type of violation that we want to stockpile jails with,” Abbott said in January.

Last June, Abbott signed House Bill 1535 to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, which went into effect in September 2021. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and all kinds of cancer may now be eligible for relief under the Texas Compassionate Use Program. The program already included qualifying conditions such as intractable epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, terminal cancer, autism, and seizure disorders.

However, medical cannabis advocates shared their disappointment in the state’s limitations. Heather Fazio (director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy) expressed concern about the lack of support. “While we are glad to see the Compassionate Use Program being expanded, it’s disappointing to see Texas inching forward while other states, like Alabama, for example, are moving forward with real medical cannabis programs,” said Fazio. “It’s doing so little, and we wish [lawmakers] were doing more.”