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

by | Jun 30, 2021 | Austin, Policy

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

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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