AUSTIN, Texas - The proposal to decriminalize marijuana possession, in low amounts, won big in San Marcos.
More than 80% responded to the call made by an advocacy group called Mano Amiga. Tuesday night, members celebrated the victory. Among those at the party was the group’s Right to Justice Coordinator Elle Cross.
"It was a really special moment. This is the end of a whole year of hard work for us. And the people that you saw in the photograph that you received have all put in so much time and effort. I mean, running a ballot initiative is an incredibly intensive work. We were out seven days a week collecting signatures in our community, you know, hitting the pavement, rain or shine. So seeing it come to fruition and actually pass was such a relief and just such a special moment," said Cross.
The city ordinance decriminalizes possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana, but this new rule only applies to San Marcos police.
The local police association posted on social media opposition to the proposition. The association also issued a warning of potential dangers to children. In a statement sent to FOX 7 Austin Hays County D.A. Wes Mau noted that:
"Officers, deputies and troopers who encounter persons in possession of marijuana in the city limits may still enforce the state law, which creates no certainty amongst San Marcos residents that they can ignore the law with impunity as the referendum would suggest."
District Attorney Mau's full statement is located below. His term in office ends in January and Cross hopes the new DA, Progressive Kelly Higgins, will be more accommodating.
"We did the first step. We did what we had the power to do. And we built a lot of public support for this movement. We proved to our city and county officials that the people of our community want to see marijuana decriminalized. And so now we look to the county to take further action to reassess the way that we treat marijuana criminalization and drug criminalization in general," said Cross.
San Marcos was one of five cities in Texas to pass a decriminalization. The others include, Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights and Killeen.
- FOR 32,610
- AGAINST 13.092
- FOR 1,899
- AGAINST 626
- FOR 14,844
- AGAINST 6,679
- FOR 5,074
- AGAINST 2,892
- FOR 15,664
- AGAINST 3,475
The measures were spearheaded by group that got Austin voters to pass a similar measure in May.
"So for Ground Game Texas, last night was a big victory night for our organization. Five for five is pretty big," said Julie Oliver.
Oliver is the Executive Director for Ground Game Texas. She and other advocates believe the margins of victory Tuesday, which exceeded a lot of other campaigns, sends a strong message.
"Well, this is an issue that is incredibly bipartisan. It's probably the most bipartisan issue there might be. And in fact, when I was collecting signatures here in Austin, I had a woman who was a Republican who came up and hugged me for this. And she goes, this must be the thing that brings the two sides of the aisle together," said Oliver.
Ground Game Texas is working with a San Antonio group that’s also trying to get marijuana decriminalization on the ballot. The next big vote, for Ground Game Texas, is next Spring. The organization helped an El Paso group get a ballot proposition to make the city to adopt a climate change policy.
Below is the full statement from Hays County DA Wes Mau:
"The marijuana possession offenses are state laws that the city does not have the authority to change. A blanket statement by the city that city funds should not be used to enforce state laws creates a problem for officers who have taken an oath to enforce those same laws.
It also raises questions about enforcement that the ordinance may not address, such as access to marijuana for minors. If a person is found in possession of three ounces of marijuana right outside the middle school, should police ignore him? Does the city also approve of marijuana adulterated with narcotics or other dangerous chemicals? If not, how will those substances be discovered if police are prohibited from investigating those cases? Since there is no legal way in Texas to regulate the manufacture and sale of marijuana, refusing to enforce the marijuana laws creates an incentive for criminal organizations to operate in San Marcos.
In addition, the city has no authority outside the city’s jurisdiction, so the other cities and the county will not be bound by any such ordinance.
Officers, deputies and troopers who encounter persons in possession of marijuana in the city limits may still enforce the state law, which creates no certainty amongst San Marcos residents that they can ignore the law with impunity as the referendum would suggest.
I recognize the trends and ongoing political debates regarding marijuana. Resolving those debates city-by-city and in terms of funding enforcement is the wrong approach. Even in states where marijuana has been legalized, the impacts have not been uniformly positive. (I’ve attached the most recent [at the time I sent the email] Colorado report on the subject for your reference [I’ve attached the same report to this email]). The issues, as with alcohol, cigarettes, vapes, and prescriptions drugs are much more complex than a simple yes or no vote on decriminalization can encompass, and I believe it is a mistake to handle the issue as if it was so simple."