AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting next week, a marijuana ballot initiative will go before Austin voters, and it could coast to an easy victory with no organized or vocal opposition in sight.
Proposition A would effectively decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and would also end the practice of “no-knock warrants” by Austin police.
“These are clearly two popular reforms that, for whatever reason, haven’t been executed as the state level, so Austin is taking the lead,” said Mike Siegel with Ground Game Texas, the group behind Prop A.
Siegel and his team gathered roughly 34,000 signatures to get the measure on the May 7 ballot. Early voting begins next Monday, April 25.
On the marijuana end, Prop A would formalize a city policy put in place in 2020, when then-police chief Brian Manley announced (after some initial resistance) that his officers would no longer cite or arrest those accused of misdemeanor pot offenses.
The change came after a 9-0 resolution vote by the Austin City Council.
On Wednesday, Council Member Vanessa Fuentes told KXAN she still believes the idea is a no-brainer.
“This is a cost-effective measure when you think about it,” Fuentes said. “We don’t need to be putting people in jail for low-level amounts of marijuana.”
Unlike previous, more contentious propositions — like last November’s other “Prop A” initiative over police funding — there is no clear opposition campaign this time around.
Statewide attitudes on pot also appear to be shifting. A University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tribune poll last June showed 60% of Texas voters say they support the recreational use of marijuana, and Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled he is open to reform.
KXAN reached out to current police chief Joseph Chacon. A department spokesperson said Chacon would not be making any public comments on Prop A, and sent the following statement:
“The City does not hold an official position on ballot initiatives one way or the other and we are declining requests to share individuals’ opinions.”APD Spokesperson
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said his union is “staying out of the marijuana conversation” for this election, though he did have some thoughts on no-knock warrants.
“The Austin community needs to know if they get rid of that, that takes away a tool that we use with very violent felons,” Casaday told KXAN.
You can view a sample ballot ahead of early voting on the Travis County Elections Department website.