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Texas Activists Turn In Signatures To Put Marijuana Decriminalization On Lockhart Ballot This November



Activists in Lockhart, Texas have turned in what they say are more than enough signatures to qualify a marijuana decriminalization initiative for the local ballot this November.

Elle Cross, campaign director for Mano Amiga’s Lockhart campaign, said at a press conference on Wednesday that advocates are submitting more than 900 signatures for the cannabis decriminalization proposal with the city secretary’s office. That’s roughly double the required petitions to qualify for ballot placement.

This comes weeks after voters in Lubbock rejected a separate cannabis reform initiative, which followed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filing lawsuits against five other Texas cities with voter-approved decriminalization laws.

Lockhart Commissioner Dyral Thomas said the local reform proposal would take a “small step on a better path” for the community, noting racial disparities in cannabis criminalization and the benefits of freeing up law enforcement resources to address more serious crimes.

The purpose section of the initiative similarly says that the objective of decriminalization is “carefully allocating scarce city resources, reducing the risk of discriminatory enforcement practices, and focusing city resources on the highest priority public safety concerns.”

“Unless and until a binding act of a state or federal court requires otherwise, the Lockhart Police Department shall not make any arrest or issue any citation for Class A or Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession, except in the limited cases described by this policy,” it says.

It also stipulates that, if the reform is challenge by state or federal authorities, it would simply become the default policy of the city to make marijuana possession among the jurisdiction’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

Under the measure, the city would further be barred from conducting THC testing of cannabis products to determine whether it meets the definition of illegal marijuana or legal hemp.

“Lockhart police shall not consider the odor of marijuana or hemp to constitute probable cause for any search or seizure, except in the limited circumstances of a police investigation pursuant to Section 12.05,” another provision says.

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has separately lashed out against the municipal cannabis reform efforts.

“Local communities such as towns, cities and counties, they don’t have the authority to override state law,” the governor said late last month. “If they want to see a different law passed, they need to work with their legislators. Let’s legislate to work to make sure that the state, as a state, will pass some of the law.”

He said it would lead to “chaos” and create an “unworkable system” for voters in individual cities to be “picking and choosing” the laws they want abide by under state statute.

Abbott has previously said that he doesn’t believe people should be in jail over marijuana possession—although he mistakenly suggested at the time that Texas had already enacted a decriminalization policy to that end.

Paxton, the state attorney general, used more inflammatory rhetoric when his office announced in January that it was suing five cities over local laws decriminalizing marijuana that voters approved, vowing to overrule the “anarchy” of “pro-crime extremists” who advocated for the reform.

He filed lawsuits against the cities of Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin and Denton. The litigation is still pending, but advocates have moved ahead with their local reform effort nonetheless.

Activists with Ground Game Texas and Texas Cannabis Collective have also been collecting signatures to place a local marijuana decriminalization initiative on the November ballot in Dallas.

In general, the measures that have already been enacted in AustinDenton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen and San Marcos prevent police from making arrests or issuing citations for Class A or B misdemeanor cannabis possession offenses, unless it’s part of a high priority felony  investigation for narcotics or violent crime.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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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 last year—though officials have still refused to move forward with implementing the will of voters.

In November, Ground Game released a report that looked at the impacts of the marijuana reform laws. It found that the measures will keep hundreds of people out of jail, even as they have led to blowback from law enforcement in some cities. The initiatives have also driven voter turnout by being on the ballot, the report said.

Another cannabis decriminalization measure that went before voters in San Antonio last May was overwhelmingly defeated, but that proposal also included unrelated provisions to prevent enforcement of abortion restrictions.

At the state-level last year, 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 last 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.

Three in five Texans, including a plurality of Republicans, support legalizing marijuana, according to a survey released this month.

Another poll released in 2022 found that nearly three in four Texas voters (72 percent) support decriminalizing marijuana. More than half (55 percent), meanwhile, said they’re in favor of broader legalization. Seventeen percent said it shouldn’t be legal at all.

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

Advocates Divided On New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill As Senate-Amended Measure Gets Final House Vote On Thursday

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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