Lubbock voters reject attempt to end arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana

Watch party attendees sign a flag in support of Proposition A on May 4, 2024. (Trace Thomas For The Texas Tribune, Trace Thomas For The Texas Tribune)

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LUBBOCK — The green wave some Lubbock residents hoped for didn’t materialize Saturday as voters rejected Proposition A, which would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in the city. Nearly 65% of voters rejected the proposal.

The ordinance would have instructed Lubbock police to stop arresting adults for possession of marijuana if they have four ounces or less.

Adam Hernandez, spokesperson for Lubbock Compact, the organization behind the decriminalization efforts, said low voter turnout hurt the proposition.

“We worked hard on it, we had a lot of volunteers,” Hernandez said. “We just weren’t able to get the voter turnout high enough.”

When asked if they will revisit the issue in the future, he said, “Before anything else can move forward, we’re going to have to focus on voter education and voter turnout.”

The movement to end some low-level pot arrests was started by Lubbock Compact, a local advocacy group. When the proposal was unanimously rejected by the City Council, it kicked off a grassroots campaign to get the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.

What followed was weeks of political strife. Megachurches, state leaders and law enforcement spoke out against the ballot initiative, calling it an effort to undermine public safety.

Early voting numbers showed a higher interest in this year’s elections, as 26,103 ballots were cast early, significantly more than Lubbock’s last municipal election. With Saturday’s numbers, about 35,216 people voted this year. More than 190,000 people are registered to vote in Lubbock County.

Texas has long resisted efforts to legalize recreational marijuana or lower penalties for low-level possession. Since 2015, state lawmakers have allowed medical marijuana use through the Compassionate Use Program which has about 69,000 Texans enrolled. Aside from the program, lawmakers have drawn a line in the sand when it comes to recreational marijuana use and possession in Texas.

Similar ordinances have passed by voter approval in Austin, Killeen, Denton, Elgin and San Marcos. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued all five cities as a result. City leaders in Harker Heights, another city that passed a similar policy, refused to reform their enforcement guidelines.

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