Activists In Another Texas City Kick Off Effort To Decriminalize Marijuana, With Signature Gathering Underway In Lubbock

August 19, 2023 · marijuanamoment.net

Activists in Lubbock, Texas have launched a campaign to join the growing number of cities across the Lone Star State that have locally decriminalized marijuana.

The committee behind the initiative filed paperwork for the Freedom Act Lubbock ordinance with the city secretary this week, which gives them 60 days to collect about 4,800 valid signatures, which equates to about 25 percent of registered voters who participated in the last municipal election in May.

If they’re successful, the measure will first be transmitted to the city council for consideration and then, if they don’t enact it, the proposal will go on the ballot for voters to decide.

Campaign spokesperson Adam Hernandez told Marijuana Moment on Friday that activists “fully anticipate” lawmakers will vote against the reform given the “political climate” in the conservative town, but it’d be “great” if they enacted it in a surprise move.

Under the proposal, local police would be prohibited from making arrests or citations to adults in possession of up to four ounces of cannabis, unless there’s a binding state or federal court order against the policy. If that does happen, the initiative says the “City’s policy shall be to make enforcement of Class A and Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession its lowest enforcement priority.”

The text of the measure says that it’s meant to “promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of Lubbock.” Enacting the reform is in the interest of “carefully allocating scarce city resources, reducing the risk of discriminatory enforcement practices, and focusing city resources on the highest priority public safety concerns.”

In a press release on Friday, the campaign noted that “six other cities in Texas have recently gone through this same process, with their citizens voting overwhelmingly in favor of decriminalizing marijuana within their borders.”

That includes successful decriminalization votes in AustinDelton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen and San Marcos.

The campaign Lubbock campaign has listed more than 30 events—from farmers markets to Texas Tech University football games—where they plan to gather signatures.

“We definitely need funding. And one of our problems out here in Lubbock is we are island—a very conservative island politically—so if people would like to support this initiative and help us change that climate in the city, they can definitely help us with monetary donations,” Hernandez said. “They can also just follow our pages on Facebook and Instagram.”

A more recent decriminalization measure that went before voters in San Antonio in May was overwhelmingly defeated, but that proposal also included provisions to prevent enforcement of abortion restrictions.

So far, many of the local Texas cannabis initiatives have been primarily led by the progressive group Ground Game Texas, which is playing an advisory role in the Lubbock campaign by helping to draft the proposed ordinance and assisting with signature verification.

Advocates have faced issues in certain jurisdictions where voters approved decriminalization.

Shortly after voters in Harker Heights approved their measure, the city council overturned the ordinance over concerns that it conflicted with state law. But activists collected signatures for another initiative and successfully repealed the repeal in May.

The Killeen City Council temporarily paused implementation of its local voter-approved ordinance, arguing that there were legal concerns that lawmakers needed to sort through before giving it their approval, which they eventually did. But in April, Bell County filed a lawsuit challenging the policy.

At the state-level this session, the Texas House of Representatives passed a series of bills to decriminalize marijuana, facilitate expungements and allow chronic pain patients to access medical cannabis as an opioid alternative. But they ultimately stalled out in the Senate, which has been a theme for cannabis reform measures in the conservative legislature over several sessions.

The House passed similar cannabis decriminalization proposals during the past two legislative sessions, in 2021 and 2019.

Separately, a Texas Democratic senator brought the issue of marijuana legalization to the Senate floor earlier in May, seeking to attach to an unrelated resolution an amendment that would’ve allowed Texans to vote on ending prohibition at the ballot box. But the symbolic proposal was ultimately shut down. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) agreed to another member’s point of order, deeming the cannabis amendment not germane to the broader legislation.

Nearly three in four Texas voters (72 percent) support decriminalizing marijuana, according to a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll last year. More than half (55 percent), meanwhile, said they’re in favor of broader legalization. Seventeen percent said it shouldn’t be legal at all.

In March, the same institution similarly showed that a majority of Texas voters feel that the state’s marijuana laws should be “less strict.” (Full Story)

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