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Initiative for marijuana decriminalization, end to 'no knock' warrants certified by Austin clerk

Ground Game Texas submitted more than 30,000 signatures to the City of Austin in support of a ballot initiative.

AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin group known as Ground Game Texas said on Jan. 11 that the city clerk has certified its petition for a ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana and ban "no knock" warrants.

On Dec. 1, the group delivered tens of thousands of signatures to the city clerk's office. The clerk's office confirmed to KVUE on Jan. 11 that it has certified the petition.

The voter engagement and mobilization organization has dubbed its initiative the "Austin Freedom Act of 2021."

"Thanks to the tireless efforts of the on-the-ground organizers from Ground Game Texas and partner organizations, Austin residents will soon have the ability to make lasting change to our antiquated and racist criminal justice laws," Mike Siegel, political director at Ground Game Texas, said in December. "With successful campaigns like these, Ground Game Texas will continue to empower and excite communities around progressive change – and deliver for the marginalized communities that too often get left behind."

The organization reported that it delivered more than 30,000 signatures on Dec. 1, more than the 20,000 threshold needed to get an item on the May citywide ballot. 

The Austin Police Department officially ended most arrests and ticketing for personal marijuana possession in July 2020.

At the time, a memo from then-chief Brian Manley stated that the APD would no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses, "unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so is part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony." 

Now that the ballot initiative has been certified by the clerk, the Austin City Council can adopt the ordinance or send it to voters to decide on in a May 7 special election. On Tuesday, Jan. 18, the council will decide between those two options.

To learn more about Ground Game Texas, click here.

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