Texas cities depenalize marijuana

Voters in five Texas cities decided in favor of municipal ballot initiatives eliminating 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 in most circumstances from considering the odor of cannabis as probable cause of a crime.

“Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms in Texas via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box! This will have a positive impact on the almost half a million people living in these cities. 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. It is time for lawmakers to take steps to enact statewide reform when they convene in January 2023,” Texas NORML’s Executive Director Jax James said.

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.

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.

Over 400,000 Texans reside in the cities of Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen, and San Marcos.

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