By / June 26, 2024

Dallas, Texas: 50,000 Signatures Collected to Decriminalize Cannabis

Activists and local organizations in Dallas, Texas are tirelessly working to change the cannabis situation through electoral initiatives, despite opposition from state authorities.

So will Texas finally decriminalize cannabis? The conservative state is currently at the stage for a significant popular movement aiming to decriminalize the possession of cannabis in several cities after activists in Dallas collected 50,000 signatures supporting their movement.

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Dallas Takes the Lead

In a bold move, activists in Dallas have submitted nearly 50,000 signatures to place a cannabis decriminalization initiative on the November ballot. Led by Ground Game Texas, this initiative seeks to decriminalize the possession of up to four ounces of cannabis in Dallas, the third-largest city in Texas by population. If successful, the measure will prevent police from making arrests or issuing citations for Class A or B cannabis possession offenses unless they are part of a high-priority criminal investigation.

Councilman Chad West has expressed support for the initiative and plans to sponsor it at the legislative level, which could streamline the process and save the city money on signature verification. The proposed measure would also prohibit Dallas police from using the smell of cannabis or hemp as probable cause for searches or seizures. Quarterly reports on the policy’s implementation would be required to ensure transparency and accountability.

Catina Voellinger, Executive Director of Ground Game Texas, emphasized the importance of the initiative, stating, “The Dallas Freedom Act is nothing less than that: it is part of a larger movement that rejects division, creates the change we all deserve, and, in true Texan spirit, demands it unreservedly right now.”

This sentiment is shared by Campaign Director Tristeza Ordex, who highlighted the broader personal and social impact of cannabis possession charges, particularly on veterans.

Broader Statewide Efforts Beyond Dallas

The Dallas campaign is part of a broader trend of local cannabis reform measures across Texas. In Lockhart, activists have submitted enough signatures for a similar initiative, while a Democratic candidate in Texas is pushing for a ballot initiative in Bastrop.

Recently, several Texas cities besides Dallas, including Austin, Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen, and San Marcos, have adopted measures to decriminalize cannabis possession. However, these efforts have not been without challenges. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has actively opposed these local laws, filing lawsuits against five cities that passed voter-approved decriminalization laws. He has accused proponents of these measures of promoting “anarchy” and has vowed to overturn them.

Legal and Political Challenges

Governor Greg Abbott has also criticized local cannabis reform initiatives in Dallas, arguing that they conflict with state legislation. He has called for legislative action at the state level rather than piecemeal changes in different cities. Abbott warned that allowing local communities to adopt their own laws could lead to “chaos” and an “unworkable system.”

Despite these difficulties, some cities have successfully defended their decriminalization measures. For instance, a Texas district judge recently dismissed a lawsuit against the voter-approved cannabis decriminalization law in Austin. In Elgin, local authorities settled their dispute with the state attorney general, noting that decriminalization was never implemented despite voter approval.

In Harker Heights, the city council initially repealed a voter-approved decriminalization ordinance, citing conflicts with state legislation. However, activists gathered signatures for another initiative, which led to the ordinance being repealed. Yet, authorities continued to oppose implementing the voters’ will, highlighting the ongoing struggle between local reform advocates and state authorities.

Impact and Implications

Ground Game Texas released a report in November on the effects of local cannabis reform laws. According to the report, these measures have kept hundreds of people out of jail, despite pushback from law enforcement in some cities. Additionally, the presence of cannabis decriminalization initiatives on the ballot has increased voter turnout, demonstrating the issue’s importance to many Texans.

The cannabis decriminalization movement in Texas reflects a broader trend toward drug law reform at the national level. As more states and cities like Dallas reconsider their approach to cannabis, the debate over its legal status and implications for public health, criminal justice, and civil liberties continues to evolve.

(Featured image by R K via Unsplash)

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