Possessing even small quantities of marijuana is a criminal offense under Texas state law, but polls show that about one in three Texans would like to see that law changed. Support for marijuana legalization has grown significantly in Texas and is one of the few hot-button issues that crosses partisan lines, but several attempts to relax marijuana laws have stalled in the state legislature. This has prompted advocacy groups to pursue reform at the local level, and these efforts have met with more success.
Austin ballot measure
The latest local effort to relax marijuana laws is taking place in Austin. City officials announced on Jan. 10 that the pro worker and marijuana legalization group Ground Game Texas had gathered the 20,000 signatures needed to get their proposition on the May ballot. If it is approved by voters, the ballot initiative will prevent police officers in Austin from arresting individuals on drug charges solely for possessing small quantities of marijuana or items used to consume the drug.
Law enforcement groups in Texas have had mixed reactions to the efforts being made to reform marijuana laws in the state. The Austin Police Association has said that it opposes attempts to circumvent state law but will not actively lobby against measures that the majority of the public support. The former Austin Police Department chief strongly opposed marijuana law reforms, but his successor has chosen to remain silent on the issue.
Public opinion is the key to change
The speed with which Ground Game Texas was able to gather the signatures it needed to get its initiative on the May ballot clearly shows that public opinion on marijuana has changed a great deal. Lawmakers in a democracy should reflect the wishes of the voters, which is why many members of the legislature have changed their opinions on this issue in recent years.