Will Texas Lawmakers Decriminalize Cannabis in 2022?
This past Tuesday the Austin City Council passed a proposal to allow a bill to decriminalize marijuana on the local ballot in May. Sufficient signatures were obtained by Ground Game Texas to have the legislation on the Austin ballot. The council could have adopted it as an ordinance on its own without needing the help of voters. Which the supporters said they would have favored. Yet legislators decided instead to just pass the initiative for the ballot. The proposal passed in a 7-3 vote.
Earlier in January city officials certified petitions for the ballot initiative. More than 33,000 names were collected that support this measure. This made for 10,000 more names than what was required for the election on May 7th. On the same day of the local certification, Gov. Greg Abbott shared some words. Mr.Abbott said that he doesn’t believe people should be incarcerated over low-level marijuana possession.
Austin, as well as other Texas cities like Dallas, have already independently enacted law enforcement policy changes. These laws are desired to lower the arrests for cannabis-related offenses. This would be done by issuing citations and summons. Now the ordinance adopted by the council would go a step further. The measure strives to end arrests and citations for misdemeanor cannabis possession within Texas’s capital city. Also, it says police cannot issue citations for residue or paraphernalia in place of a possession charge.
The Next Phase For Legal Cannabis In Texas
Prior to this upcoming vote, there has been some back and forth. The debate was about another requirement of the legislation. This stipulation would not allow the execution of no-knock warrants. Following a closed-door executive session, legislators came back and chose against passing the policy change on their own. Specific members stressed that they believed it was necessary to hear what Austin voters think about the reform.
The bill would also stop the using money from the city to request or test cannabis. Which is a process taken to decide whether it meets the state’s portrayal of a lawful product. Hemp is legal in Texas, which is creating difficulties for law enforcement. Meaning they are now working to determine if confiscated cannabis products comply with state statutes.
Game Ground Texas previously attempted to place the initiative on the November 2021 ballot. Still, they did not meet the signature turn-in deadline and shifted their attention to 2022. The group has also launched campaigns to put marijuana decriminalization on local ballots in Killeen and Harker Heights, and activists in San Marcos began a similar campaign in September.
Final Thoughts On Austin Texas Going Legal
There is no statewide, citizen-led initiative process. An initiative that would allow advocates to position a case like decriminalization or legalization on the Texas ballot. Though on a local level, there are limited cases where activists can leverage home rule laws that allow for policy changes. Not long ago a poll was conducted that found a solid amount of Texans support legalizing cannabis for adult use.
The survey from the University of Houston and Texas Southern University discovered that 67 percent of those in Texas support the broad reform. Fifty-one percent of people in Texas who are Republican said they back legalization. In Texas, drug policy reform did advance in the legislature during last year’s session.
But not necessarily at the pace that advocates had hoped to see. A bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and another to require a study into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans were enacted.