The campaign to decriminalize recreational marijuana in Lubbock is the latest in a struggle for cannabis supporters in Texas, which, unlike neighboring states, has long resisted legalizing the drug, The Texas Tribune reports. If the suggested change becomes law, Lubbock would be the largest Texas city to decriminalize the drug through the petition process. Lawmakers have gone as far as legalizing medical marijuana but have drawn the line when it comes to recreational use or lowering penalties for possession. There have been efforts to change state law. Some bills, such as a legislative push by Rep. Joe Moody to reduce the penalty for possessing one ounce of marijuana and allow for convictions to be expunged in certain cases, were approved by the House, but died in the Senate. The advocacy group Lubbock Compact started the Freedom Act Lubbock petition in an effort for decriminalization in August. It has until Oct. 18 to get 4,800 signatures by registered voters. If the petition is successful, the city council must vote to accept or reject the group’s proposal to decriminalize marijuana. If the council rejects the change, petition organizers can put it on the 2024 ballot for voters to decide. With just under three weeks to go, the group has an estimated 6,000 signatures.
Adam Hernandez of Lubbock Compact, said decriminalizing marijuana would be a step forward for the city of 260,000. The group, along with Ground Game Texas, a nonprofit organization that focuses on mobilizing voters, collected data showing disparities in how Lubbock police enforce marijuana-related crimes. Black residents account for 8% of Lubbock residents and Latinos make up 37% of the population. However, 29% of marijuana arrests are Black residents and 49% are Latinos. Data also show that about 52% of all marijuana arrests since 2018 involve people 25 years old or younger. The group asks the city to address the disparities. “These findings should require Lubbock to reevaluate its marijuana enforcement priorities and implement a more common sense, equitable, and just enforcement for all residents,” the report said. Even though young people of color are the ones being arrested in most cases, Hernandez suggested many people in Lubbock use marijuana for various reasons. Residents in nearby cities have expressed interest in replicating the effort in their towns.