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Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin votes to ban no-knock warrants and decriminalize small amounts of weed, initial results show

Saturday, May 7, 2022 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

By a sweeping margin, voters in Austin appear to have approved a proposition to sanction small amounts of marijuana and ban the use of no-knock warrants by police.

Nearly 85% of voters were in favor of Proposition A, according to initial voting results from Travis, Williamson and Hays counties. (The city spans portions of all three counties.)

People found with small amounts — 4 oz. or less — of marijuana in Austin already don’t face criminal charges. Because of a state law from 2019 legalizing hemp, prosecutors began dropping misdemeanor marijuana cases. After some back and forth in 2020, Austin police agreed to stop citing people for the offense.

By passing Prop A, voters are simply codifying current police policy on marijuana. But Mike Siegel, co-founder of the nonprofit that circulated a petition to get Prop A on the ballot — Ground Game Texas — said he hopes the action in Austin reverberates throughout the state.

“This lays down an extremely clear marker for the rest of Texas that one, this is something that’s possible. That a city can decide to end marijuana enforcement,” Siegel said. “And two, that it’s extremely popular.”

Ground Game Texas is working on similar ballot items in other Central Texas cities, including San Marcos and Elgin.

The banning of no-knock warrants is new for Austin. According to the Austin Police Department, police executed three no-knock warrants in 2021.

No-knock warrants are when police enter a building without announcing their presence. The use and, at times, deadly outcomes of these types of warrants gained national attention when police killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville after using a no-knock warrant to enter her home while she was sleeping.

Currently, Austin police are required to get both a commander and a judge to sign off on a no-knock warrant. With the passage of Prop A, police executing warrants will be required to announce their presence and wait 15 seconds before entering the building.

KUT reached out to Austin’s police chief and the president of the police union for comment, but did not hear back Saturday night.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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