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Austin votes to decriminalize marijuana, ban no-knock warrants

The item doesn’t legalize weed in the city, but it does outlaw enforcement of low-level possession crimes.

AUSTIN, Texas — In the May 7 election on Saturday, Austinites voted to pass a proposition decriminalizing marijuana and banning no-knock warrants.

This ballot item was spearheaded by a group known as Ground Game Texas, which launched the initiative to get the proposition at the ballot box by gathering signatures around the area.

A total of 85% of voters cast their ballots in favor of decriminalizing marijuana and banning no-knock warrants while 15% voted against it.

RELATED: Texas This Week: May 7 election statewide ballot propositions

Below is how the proposition appeared on residents' ballots:

"Shall an initiative ordinance be approved to (1) eliminate enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses and (2) ban the use of ‘no knock’ warrants by Austin police?"

It’s important to note that Saturday’s vote does not legalize marijuana use in the city of Austin.

Instead, the measure ultimately forbids police officers from ticketing and arresting people on low-level marijuana offenses, like possession of small amounts of weed or related paraphernalia, unless tied to a more severe crime. Austin would also not pay to test substances suspected to be marijuana, which is an important step in substantiating drug charges.

RELATED: May 7 constitutional amendments and local elections: What you need to know before voting

According to the Austin ordinance, Austin officers will not be allowed to issue citations for most Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession offenses. In Texas, a Class A misdemeanor is possession of 4 ounces or less but more than 2 ounces. A Class B misdemeanor is possession of 2 ounces or less.

The ordinance goes into effect immediately after the votes are canvassed, the latest of which can happen on May 18.

The Austin Police Department officially ended most arrests and ticketing for personal marijuana possession in July 2020. So, although these practices have widely been adopted in Texas, Saturday’s results solidify them across the city.

No-knock warrants have also been a popular topic after the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. According to Time Magazine, her death was credited to a no-knock warrant served at an apartment where she was staying with her boyfriend. She was shot eight times, sparking a nationwide push to remove the police tactic that allows police to enter residences unannounced.

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