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Marijuana reform activists in three Texas cities – Bastrop (population 11,200), Dallas (population 1.3 million), and Lockhart (population 15,000) – have collected signatures in support of citizens’-initiated ballot measures depenalizing cannabis possession.

If certified for the ballot and approved by voters in November, all three measures will prohibit local law enforcement from making low-level marijuana-related arrests.

In recent years, voters in several Texas cities have approved similar municipal ballot measures.

In February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit against voter-approved marijuana depenalization ordinances in Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin, and Denton, stating, “I will not stand idly by as cities run by pro-crime extremists deliberately violate Texas law and promote the use of illicit drugs that harm our communities.”  However, last month a Travis County district judge dismissed the Attorney General’s challenge to Austin’s law. Paxton’s office has pledged to appeal the ruling.

Texas law defines marijuana possession as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal record. According to data compiled by Texas NORML, police made an estimated 219,000 marijuana-related arrests between 2017 and 2021. Ninety-seven percent of those arrested were charged with possession only. Fifty-six percent of those arrested were under 25 years of age.

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