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'Austin Freedom Act of 2021' heading to May ballot

Austin voters will now decide if the city should eliminate low-level marijuana enforcement and ban no-knock warrants.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, the Austin City Council voted 7-3 to put the "Austin Freedom Act of 2021" on the May 7 ballot.

Voters will now decide in the upcoming special election if the City should eliminate low-level marijuana enforcement and ban no-knock warrants.

The ballot initiative was launched by a group known as Ground Game Texas. They announced that the City Clerk official certified its petition earlier this month after they deliver tens of thousands of signatures on Dec. 1.    

"Thanks to the tireless efforts of the on-the-ground organizers from Ground Game Texas and partner organizations, Austin residents will soon have the ability to make lasting change to our antiquated and racist criminal justice laws," Mike Siegel, political director at Ground Game Texas, said in December. "With successful campaigns like these, Ground Game Texas will continue to empower and excite communities around progressive change – and deliver for the marginalized communities that too often get left behind."

The Austin Police Department officially ended most arrests and ticketing for personal marijuana possession in July 2020.

At the time, a memo from then-chief Brian Manley stated that the APD would no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses, "unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so is part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony."

A similar initiative is also underway in the city of San Marcos. The organization Mano Amiga is currently gathering signatures in a petition of its own in support of decriminalizing marijuana.

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