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Voters could decriminalize marijuana possession, ban no-knock search warrants

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 by Kali Bramble

Voters will have a chance this month to determine whether the city of Austin will adopt two new ordinances that would eliminate low-level marijuana charges and ban no-knock search warrants.

The special election, which began in-person early voting on Monday and will conclude on May 7, follows a campaign by the nonprofit Ground Game Texas that collected over 30,000 signatures supporting the initiatives. The two policies will appear on the ballot as one proposal, Proposition A, meaning voters will need to vote for or against the two issues as a joint item. 

While phasing out such practices is already unofficial policy within the Austin Police Department, voting the proposition into city code would prohibit changes from new leadership.

Over the past several years, cities and states across the nation have worked to eliminate punishment for possessing small amounts of marijuana, with some committing to legalize the substance entirely. In 2020, the Texas Legislature legalized the sale and consumption of hemp products, opening the door for a broader conversation surrounding recreational marijuana use.

No-knock search warrants, long criticized as a dangerous escalation practice, came under scrutiny following the police shooting of Breonna Taylor of Louisville, Kentucky. As public demands to address police brutality intensified, a City Council ordinance limited the use of such warrants in the summer of 2020 but fell short of an outright ban. 

If Prop A passes, advocates hope the policies will help to improve racial equity outcomes in law enforcement, which disproportionately targets people of color.

Early voting is now underway until May 3 at select early voting locations. Election day is Saturday, May 7. Those gearing up to cast their votes may check out a sample ballot as well as a map of polling locations.

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