San Antonio/ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on June 08, 2024
Dallas May Put Marijuana Decriminalization to Voters as City Council Member Advocates for "Dallas Freedom Act"Source: Unsplash/ Ryan Lange

In a move that could shift the tides of marijuana legislation in the Lone Star State, Dallas residents may soon have their say on decriminalizing small amounts of the substance; this follows Council member Chad West's announcement to introduce the "Dallas Freedom Act", aiming to place the measure on the November ballot according to a news release obtained by The Texas Tribune on June 7th, 2024.

The Act comes in response to a petition which not only amassed support from over 50,000 signatories but carries the heavy weight of communal sentiment against the burdening of law enforcement with minor drug offenses, as West noted, "Our already burdened police should focus their attention on serious crime, not arresting people with small amounts of marijuana", the proposal specifically seeks to halt the apprehension and ticketing for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana aligning with similar ordinances passed in other Texas cities, despite hard-lined opposition from state officials like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who's making moves to scupper such local autonomy.

Decriminalization advocates, including Dallas council member Adam Bazaldua, stress the current injustice wherein the predominantly Black and Latino community suffers disproportionate incarceration over a substance that's reaping millions in legalized states, Bazaldua shared his longstanding support for this kind of policy, telling The Texas Tribune, "It’s past time we take action against this injustice." This stance draws on Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia's 2021 directive which stemmed arrests for having less than two ounces of marijuana after acknowledgment of racial disparities.

Despite the apparent statewide endorsement for some degree of marijuana decriminalization revealed in recent polls, the hurdles remain high, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other hard-right conservatives historically blocking a legislative reconfiguration of pot policies, Texas' absence of a statewide referendum process further anchoring the state's laws and keeping the issue predominantly within the purview of municipal voters, and while Catina Voellinger, executive director of Ground Game Texas observed the proposed amendment's potential to "reform marijuana enforcement, redress historic discrimination, end marijuana criminalization, and save millions in much needed public funds," state pushback against cities' initiatives have escalated, leading to notable tension between local autonomy and state governance.