Marijuana, abortion decriminalization look likely to make San Antonio’s May ballot

“SA Justice Charter” petition has more than 33,000 signatures; needs 20,000 verified

San Antonio – San Antonio voters will likely end up voting on a sweeping city charter amendment in the May 6 election, with marijuana and abortion decriminalization at its center.

Act 4 SA has been leading the coalition trying to get the issue onto the ballot, which requires at least 20,000 signatures. Executive Director Ananda Tomas said the coalition needs to submit the petition by Jan. 12 in order to give the city clerk time to verify the signatures are from San Antonio voters and add the amendment to the May 6 ballot.

As of Tuesday, the coalition had collected more than 33,000 signatures and verified more than 18,000 of them on its own, by Tomas’ count, making it likely its petition will meet the threshold for the ballot.

Decriminalizing abortion and marijuana possession are the centerpieces, but the 13-page charter amendment would also make existing policies permanent, like the cite-and-release program, and bans on choke holds and no-knock warrants -- and even expand some of them.

It would also create a new “Justice Director” position, which could not be filled by anyone with law enforcement experience.

READ MORE: Activists want marijuana & abortion decriminalization on May 2023 ballot

Tomas said the marijuana decriminalization aspect is the biggest reason people are signing, “but honestly, two-thirds of the folks that have signed for us are women, showing that the abortion piece is also the second most-popular option.”

As KSAT observed a signature taker Wednesday, their pitch appeared purely pot-related. However, Tomas said they have trained everyone to be able to go through all the pieces of the proposed amendment.

“We always have the policy language on us. We have our push cards on us. Anybody that asks, we definitely want to show them. And each petition has a caption on the top of it that also says, ‘What is on this petition?’” Tomas said.

While the possibility of the amendment making the ballot is likely, opposition from the police union is certain.

“The main concern is it’s chipping away at discretion. It’s chipping away at the tools of the trade that officers have to their - to be able to use to the best of their ability to make sure that they save lives,” said San Antonio Police Officers Association President Danny Diaz.

Diaz said this is “the same threat” as the 2021 fight over “Prop B,” a ballot initiative that would have stripped his union’s ability to collectively bargain for a contract. However, he said this time is “a whole lot different.”

“Now we have a little bit more time to educate the community and the citizens to see what it is that they want,” Diaz said.

Tomas said the coalition plans to deliver the gathered signatures to the city clerk on Jan. 10.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.