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Politics

San Marcos is one step closer to getting decriminalization of weed on the November ballot

A lighter on a countertop next to marijuana
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

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A criminal justice reform group announced it collected and verified more than 4,600 signatures in support of its campaign to end all low-level marijuana enforcement in San Marcos.

The ordinance would end citations and arrests for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and ban police officers from using the smell of marijuana or hemp as probable cause for search or seizure. It would also require officers to receive training on the ordinance.

Mano Amiga needed signatures from at least 10% of all registered voters in the city, or around 4,200 people, to get the ordinance on the ballot.

Now, the city has a few months to count and verify the signatures. From there, the ordinance will go in front of City Council, where members can approve it outright or let voters decide for themselves in November.

Sam Benavides, Mano Amiga's communications director, said she hopes movements like this one will get young people more involved.

"You know, I'm 22 years old and I know myself and my peers, a lot of young people need to be excited about something in order to get out and vote," she said in front of City Hall on Wednesday. "If we're able to continue this campaign ... it can really help to build up civic engagement among young people especially."

Council Member Alyssa Garza says it's clear a substantial number of voters want to see the decriminalization of marijuana on the ballot. She said it's now the duty of City Council to give voters that opportunity.

“This is true democracy from the ground up, and I'm here for it," Garza said.

For the past six months, volunteers with Mano Amiga have been knocking on doors, setting up booths and deploying volunteers across the city to collect and verify as many signatures as possible.

The group worked with Ground Game Texas, a voter engagement and mobilization organization that recently secured a similar ballot initiative campaign to decriminalize marijuana in Killeen. The campaign in San Marcos is one of 10 that Ground Game Texas has launched across the state. It was behind the ballot measure in Austin to decriminalize weed and ban no-knock warrants, which voters passed last month.

"For too long, San Marcos residents have faced the undue burden of legal troubles, financial hardship, and even incarceration for low-level marijuana offenses," Ground Game Executive Director Julie Oliver said in a news release. "Ground Game Texas and Mano Amiga are proud to give voters in San Marcos the opportunity to reform local marijuana laws on the November ballot."

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