Ballot initiative to decriminalize weed, ban ‘no knock’ warrants kicks off in Austin

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Ground Game Texas, a new voter mobilization group, announced Wednesday they would be launching a new campaign to create a ballot initiative in Austin to decriminalize marijuana and end “no-knock” warrants.

The “Austin Freedom Act of 2021” would decriminalize low-level marijuana offenses and prevent police in Austin from entering someone’s residence without first notifying them. 

The organizing group will need at least 20,000 signatures to see the issues placed on citywide ballot initiatives that allow voters to decide for themselves.  

The effort is backed by Austin City Council Members Greg Casar and Vanessa Fuentes, as well as Austin area criminal justice groups like the Austin Justice Coalition and Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

“Texans are fed up with their communities being over-criminalized and over-incarcerated by antiquated, racist laws and the politicians that protect them,” said Julie Oliver, Executive Director of Ground Game Texas.

In 2019, Austin and other multiplicities in the state stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses following the legalization of hemp in the state. A year later, Austin City Council took further steps to effectively decriminalize possession. The new ballot initiative would amend the city code. 

Last session, the legislature saw multiple bills filed that would have legalized marijuana. One bill filed by state Rep. Jessica González (D-Dallas) would have allowed Texas counties to decide the issue for themselves. None came to pass.

Likewise, one bill in the House that would have limited the use of no-knock warrants saw some success and was overwhelmingly passed by both chambers with bipartisan support, but never made it to the governor’s desk.

Both reforms are overwhelmingly supported by Texans, according to one University of Houston Hobby School survey.

Photo: Gleti/Getty Images

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