This effort was passed with the help of Ground Game Texas, a local advocacy group that targeted those five cities specifically for the ballot. The organization has also been involved in other campaigns in Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio. “Big night for Ground Game! All five of our cities looking to pass marijuana decriminalization. Motivating new voters with popular, progressive issues!” the organization wrote on Facebook.
For Denton, the initiative was referred to as Proposition B, but the other four cities listed their initiatives as Proposition A. Each of them establishes an ordinance (rather than a resolution) to remove all citations and arrests for cannabis-related possession, prevent local police from issuing citations for drug paraphernalia or cannabis odor, and ban the city from using funds for THC testing, among other changes.
According to Texas NORML Executive Director Jax James, the most recent wave of approval from voters shows that people of Texas want statewide decriminalization. “Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms in Texas via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box!” James said. “This will have a positive impact on the almost half a million people living in these cities.” A poll in August also confirmed James’s statement, showing that 55% of Texans support cannabis legalization, and 72% support medical cannabis.
In 2019, the Texas House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill, but it didn’t make it through the Senate. James praises the decriminalization victories won in the November ballot, but wants to see more progress from his state. “While these local advancements are important in mitigating harm on citizens and reprioritizing law enforcement time, they result in a patchwork of differing marijuana enforcement policies based on location,” James added. “It is time for lawmakers to take steps to enact statewide reform when they convene in January 2023.”
In order of population, the top five Texas cities include Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth. In May 2022, voters in Austin approved the “Austin Freedom Act,” which also enabled decriminalized cannabis. “It’s official! Austin will hold an election May 7, 2022 on the Austin Freedom Act. Voters will be able to pass a new city law that (1) ends enforcement of marijuana possession and (2) bans dangerous ‘no knock’ warrants. Thank you to everyone who got us this far—now let’s win!” Ground Game Texas wrote on social media in May.
Next up could be the city of San Antonio, which might have decriminalization on the ballot in May 2023. “These are all things that, for whatever reason, the city government hasn’t accomplished even though there’s public demand for them,” said Ground Game Texas co-founder and political director Mike Siegel. “That’s the beauty of this direct democracy tactic—the initiative tactic—where we can take something that’s popular with the people and the people can legislate directly.”
Although states such as Maryland and Missouri legalized adult-use cannabis this November, voters in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas did not. Few southern states currently allow adult-use, with the exception of the Virginia (and Washington, D.C.).
Meanwhile, Texas falls behind in progress. Earlier this year in August 2022, former NBA player Iman Shumpert was arrested for possession in Dallas. According to reports, he was carrying 6.2 ounces of cannabis in his luggage while traveling through the airport.
Recently, news outlets began to pick up a story about a single mom, Candace McCarty, who was evicted from federally assisted housing for medical cannabis. “I thought it was all legal, because I obtained it legally from the state,” McCarty told Kxan.com. “I’m just a single mom on disability, and I’m just trying to make it … facing homelessness right before the holidays.” The federally illegal status of cannabis affects countless others like McCarty.