The city of Lubbock, Texas has certified that activists turned in enough valid signatures to put a marijuana decriminalization initiative on the local ballot if lawmakers there do not enact the reform legislatively.
Two weeks after the Freedom Act Lubbock committee turned in more than 10,000 signatures for the measure, the city secretary held a press conference on Thursday announcing that they ultimately verified 5,185, which is about 300 more than required for qualification.
“A resolution and certification of the petition will be presented to the Lubbock City Council” on Tuesday, the official said in a notice. “This is for the purpose of the City Council receiving all papers pertaining to the petition and proposed ordinance, and receiving a certificate attesting to the results of the petition verification.”
Local legislators in Lubbock, which is Texas’s tenth largest city by population, will have 30 days from that date to hold a hearing and make a decision as to whether they will enact the reform legislatively. If they don’t enact it, the proposal will go on the ballot for voters to decide.
Last month, the campaign said that it had met its signature gathering goal but was going to continue to petition up to the deadline in order to ensure they garnered enough valid submissions and to “show city leaders how much support this petition has.”
“The Freedom Act Lubbock Team is ecstatic to get this news, and we remain grateful to all of you who helped us out with a signature!” the campaign said on Thursday.
Under the proposal, local police would be prohibited from making arrests or citations to adults in possession of up to four ounces of cannabis, unless there’s a binding state or federal court order against the policy. If that does happen, the initiative says the “City’s policy shall be to make enforcement of Class A and Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession its lowest enforcement priority.”
The text of the measure says that it’s meant to “promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of Lubbock.” Enacting the reform is in the interest of “carefully allocating scarce city resources, reducing the risk of discriminatory enforcement practices, and focusing city resources on the highest priority public safety concerns.”
Lubbock would be the second largest city by population to enact the reform. It would join cities including Austin, Delton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen and San Marcos that were largely led by Ground Game Texas.
A more recent decriminalization measure that went before voters in San Antonio in May was overwhelmingly defeated, but that proposal also included provisions to prevent enforcement of abortion restrictions.
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
Advocates have faced issues in certain jurisdictions where voters approved decriminalization.
Shortly after voters in Harker Heights approved their measure, the city council overturned the ordinance over concerns that it conflicted with state law. But activists collected signatures for another initiative and successfully repealed the repeal in May.
The Killeen City Council temporarily paused implementation of its local voter-approved ordinance, arguing that there were legal concerns that lawmakers needed to sort through before giving it their approval, which they eventually did. But in April, Bell County filed a lawsuit challenging the policy.
At the state-level this session, the Texas House of Representatives passed a series of bills to decriminalize marijuana, facilitate expungements and allow chronic pain patients to access medical cannabis as an opioid alternative. But they ultimately stalled out in the Senate, which has been a theme for cannabis reform measures in the conservative legislature over several sessions.
The House passed similar cannabis decriminalization proposals during the past two legislative sessions, in 2021 and 2019.
Separately, a Texas Democratic senator brought the issue of marijuana legalization to the Senate floor earlier in May, seeking to attach to an unrelated resolution an amendment that would’ve allowed Texans to vote on ending prohibition at the ballot box. But the symbolic proposal was ultimately shut down. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) agreed to another member’s point of order, deeming the cannabis amendment not germane to the broader legislation.
Nearly three in four Texas voters (72 percent) support decriminalizing marijuana, according to a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll last year. More than half (55 percent), meanwhile, said they’re in favor of broader legalization. Seventeen percent said it shouldn’t be legal at all.
In March, the same institution similarly showed that a majority of Texas voters feel that the state’s marijuana laws should be “less strict.”
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.