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Austin voters will decide on decriminalizing marijuana in May election

Austin City Council approves putting initiative potentially decriminalize marijuana on the May ballot. (Pexels)

Austin voters will officially be able to vote on decriminalizing marijuana after City Council approved an initiative for the May ballot on Tuesday.


The proposal comes from a petition by Austin organization Ground Game Texas that included 33,000 signatures, 23,000 of which were registered voters. Council then had the choice to enact the ordinance without voter approval; instead, it decided with a 7-3 vote to pass it on to the May ballot after a closed-door executive session, with many members saying they want to hear what Austin voters think about the reform.

If enacted, the ballot measure will ban ticketing or arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia unless it is related to a bigger charge. While the Austin Police Department ended most arrests and ticketing for personal marijuana possession in July 2020, the initiative would make it official. The reform also includes a more controversial ban on "no knock" warrants.

The news follows action taken by state and national politicians to ease restrictions on marijuana policies. On Monday, Jan. 10, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at an Edinburg campaign presser that he wasn't interested in imprisoning Texans on minor pot charges.

"Prison and jail is a place for dangerous criminals who may harm others, and small possession of marijuana is not the type of violation that we want to stockpile jails with," Abbott said.

If passed, Austin will join 27 states and other major cities, like Atlanta, in decriminalizing weed. Voters will have a chance to decide on the bill at the local election in May, two months after Texas' primary election for governor. Abbott, a favorite for the Republican seat, is predicted to face off against Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke, a staunch supporter for legalizing marijuana, in the state's November election.

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