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Local group looks to decriminalize marijuana

Staff Report

SAN MARCOS — San Marcos voters may soon have the opportunity to decriminalize marijuana in the city. 

Local grassroots criminal justice group Mano Amiga, alongside voter-engagement and mobilization organization Ground Game Texas, held a press event at San Marcos City Hall on June 1 to announce their successful efforts in collecting enough signatures to secure a ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana in San Marcos. The signatures were then presented to city officials. 

Organizers report they have independently verified over 4,600 valid, unique signatures. The City Charter only requires 4,182, or one-tenth of the amount of registered voters in the city, meaning the initiative surpassed the requirement and received hundreds of extra signatures. 

The group has worked to reach as much of the community as possible by collecting signatures from a variety of different events held across the city, such as at Texas State University, local businesses and polling stations. 

“Our team, over the last six months, has been overwhelmed with the amount of community members and local businesses that helped make this the biggest ballot initiative the city has ever seen,” said Sam Benavides, Mano Amiga Communications Director. “We’re thrilled to have something on the ballot that young people will be excited to vote on, thus drastically increasing voter turnout and civic engagement.” 

Ground Game Texas recently passed an Austin ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana, as well as ban no-knock police warrants, with more than 85% support from voters. They also recently successfully collected enough signatures to secure a ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana in Killeen. 

The San Marcos campaign is one of ten ballot campaigns they have launched across Texas to bring new voters into the fold and mobilize them behind progressive change. 

Julie Oliver, Executive Director of Ground Game Texas, said that San Marcos residents have long faced the “undue burden” of legal troubles, financial hardship and even incarceration for low-level marijuana offenses.

“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,” Oliver said. 

Per the proposed ordinance, it will end citations and arrests for misdemeanor possession of marijuana; ensure citations for possession of drug residue or drug paraphernalia are not issued in lieu of a possession of marijuana charge; prohibit the use of city funds or personnel to conduct THC concentration testing; prohibit city police from using the odor of marijuana or hemp as probable cause for search and seizure; and ensure that San Marcos police officers receive adequate training concerning each ordinance provision, and be subjected to discipline if violated. 

A press release stated Mano Amiga is now looking at the city council to ensure that San Marcos voters have the opportunity to approve the referendum during the election later this year, an effort that San Marcos City Council member Alyssa Garcia supports. 

“Clearly, a substantial portion of the San Marcos electorate has spoken, and it is now the duty of city council to afford voters the opportunity to approve it at the ballot box in November,” said Garcia. “This is true democracy from the ground up, and I’m here for it.” 

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