SAN MARCOS- Texas is one of the last few states in the United States to have marijuana completely outlawed besides CBD products. However, that does not stop the mission of a local San Marcos organization, Mano Amiga, from trying to decriminalize marijuana.
Elle Cross, the campaign manager for decriminalizing marijuana with Mano Amiga, became involved with Mano Amiga after working at an asylum shelter at the Texas-Mexico border. Afterwards, Cross became involved with Mano Amiga since the organization was located in San Marcos and she was a Texas State University graduate. With Mano Amiga, Cross and campaign partner, Sam Benavides, began the campaign to decriminalize marijuana in San Marcos.
“When Mano Amiga first started in 2015, they wanted to fight deportation cases and won four out of five. However, they realized that one of the things that funneled immigrants to the deportation pipeline was small and petty crimes. Something small like running a stop sign or possession of cannabis could lead someone to the deportation pipeline,” Cross explained.
Cross furthered her argument for decriminalizing marijuana by stating that San Marcos citizens shouldn’t lose out on opportunities while people in other states indulge in cannabis.
“Students could lose federal aid if caught with marijuana or international students could be removed from the country,” said Cross.
San Marcos previously had a zero tolerance for marijuana. However, a cite-and-release program was developed in San Marcos after Mano Amiga and other local groups advocated for such program. Although this program was passed in May of 2020, Cross and Benavides did not think the program was as effective as they once thought.
With the cite-and-release programs, officers can issue a ticket to anyone who possesses a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, which is four ounces. Police officers would not have to make an arrest. However, Mano Amiga found that this method of limiting immigrants being processed in the judicial system did not prove to be enough.
Cross came to find out that the cite-and-release program did not fulfill Mano Amiga’s intention. Cross claimed that immigrants still needed to go to court. During their court date, immigrants were still asked for legal documents and fingerprints. Thus, this did not keep immigrants safe from the risk of being deported.
Cross and Benavides took on the challenge further and decided to begin the initiative to get decriminalizing marijuana on the San Marcos ballot. In order to get this initiative on the ballot, ten percent of registered voters in San Marcos would have to sign a petition. On this petition, the registered voter would have to identify their name, address and contact information.
“That’s roughly about 4100 signatures. We also have 180 days to complete these signatures. We started in early December and will have to turn in all signatures by late May,” Cross explained.
Cross also explained that this initiative had many setbacks. Their validity rate of the signatures was significantly low. Cross further explained that this low validity rate was because many of the people who were signing the petition weren’t registered voters or had not recently updated their address to reflect San Marcos.
Despite this setback, Mano Amiga would try harder to obtain signatures for this initiative. Cross said that their goal was to get at least a hundred signatures a day until late May. Abbie Milam, a Texas State graduate student in rhetoric and comprehension, is one of the volunteers that has been helping Mano Amiga achieve this quota.
However, Milam hopes that decriminalizing marijuana in San Marcos could lead to the legalization of marijuana.
“I am in full support of legalization of marijuana but I hope that decriminalization is a good way of keeping non-violent individuals out of jail and encouraging rehabilitation instead,” said Milam.
Mano Amiga has rough numbers due to their low validity rate. Currently, they are unable to tell if they will reach their quota because of this validity rate. However, they will know in the coming weeks whether decriminalizing marijuana will be on the San Marcos ballot in November.