Corpus Christi marijuana ordinance fails
A petition to put marijuana ordinance reform on the ballot in Corpus Christi has fallen short of its signature goal.
The signature drive was spearheaded by the Corpus Christi chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The same group originally gathered the initial signatures to place the matter in the hands of the city council.
The ordinance would have implemented the state’s cite and release law, which was passed by the state legislature in 2007. It allows law enforcement agencies to opt for giving those in possession of small amounts of drugs a court summons rather than immediately take them to jail. This has been enacted elsewhere in the state, with the Houston area being the most prominent. Proponents say it allows officers to focus on keeping the community safe and conserves jail resources. It also saves people a trip to jail, impound fees, and missed time at work. This would not have changed the penalty for possession however.
Despite strong support and about 25 people in attendance at the city council meeting testifying on behalf of the proposed ordinance, council members opted not to take any action in February this year.
From there, any hope of enacting the ordinance rested on a referendum at the city level in November, but it would require the group to collect 10,000 signatures in 90 days.
In all, about 3,000 signatures were collected.
Kyle Hoelscher, the executive director of the non-profit Corpus Christi NORML, said that while they did not meet their goal, he doesn’t consider their efforts to be a failure.
“We are a young organization and this petition drive taught our group a lot about interacting with local government, local business, and citizens,” Hoelscher says. “We have a strong pool of local volunteers, some of whom have even filled vacant board positions. We created a chapter at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. This drive also helped us exceed our expectations for the Global Marijuana March.”
He adds, “I think our volunteers became veteran activists through this. Every board member can run our table, knows how to set everything up, and has met the local businesses who support us. We have a large pool of educated volunteers who know how to better speak to people and engage the public.”
Hoelscher says that in the end, it came down to simply not having enough volunteers needed to conduct such a large signature gathering campaign. He doesn’t expect the group to try again, and is instead looking forward to the next legislative session in January 2017 where several cannabis related bills are expected to be introduced.
Current Texas law for possessing two ounces of marijuana or less is a misdemeanor and can get a person up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine along with the suspension of their driver’s license. It also effects future employment opportunities and allows leasing agencies to decline tenant applications based on simple marijuana possession.
According to a June 2015 poll conducted by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, 68 percent of Texans support reducing the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.