Five Texas cities have voted in favor of municipal ballot initiatives to eliminate the local enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses.
Voters in the cities of Denton, Killeen, San Marcos, Elgin, and Harker Heights decided ‘yes’ on the measures.
Specifically, the ordinances limit local law enforcement from making arrests or issuing citations for most marijuana-related violations. It also prohibits police from considering the odor of cannabis as probable cause of a crime in most circumstances.
“Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms in Texas via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box! While these local advancements are important in mitigating harm on citizens and reprioritizing law enforcement time and resources, they result in a patchwork of differing marijuana enforcement policies based on location. It is time for lawmakers to take steps to enact statewide reform when they convene in January 2023,” says Jax James, Executive Director of Texas NORML.
Texas leads the nation in marijuana-related arrests. Under state law, the possession of two ounces or less of cannabis is defined as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Those arrested are disproportionately African Americans, which comprise nearly one-third of all Texans arrested for marijuana possession offenses, despite comprising only 13 percent of the state’s total population. Misdemeanor possession accounts for roughly 97 percent of all marijuana arrests, nearly half of which are of Texans aged 17-24.
In May, voters in the city of Austin overwhelmingly approved a similar local ballot measure.
Local activists are anticipated to place ballot questions before voters in additional cities in the coming year.
The 88th Texas Legislature convenes in January. Follow our bill tracker page for more updates.