51° San Marcos
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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

San Marcos social justice organization pushes for decriminalization of marijuana

cannabis
cannabis

In an effort to decriminalize the use of marijuana in San Marcos, Mano Amiga, a local social justice group, is working to give residents the chance to vote on the issue by the November 2022 midterm election.
The group needs at least 10% of registered voters to sign a petition supporting the campaign, in order for it to be placed on Election Day ballots. Mano Amiga will have effectively 180 days to collect signatures for the petition starting in January 2022. The petition must be approved by the city.
By pushing to decriminalize the use of marijuana in San Marcos, Mano Amiga hopes to decrease arrests, prison time and stop criminal records for first-time offenses. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit national research organization, about 250 people arrested in the last six months are currently serving time in the Hays County Jail for possession of marijuana. Sarah Minion, a program associate at the Vera Institute of Justice, said that when someone is arrested for possession of marijuana it tends to be their only charge.
“Here in Hays County roughly one in 10 bookings into the county jail have a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge,” Minion said. “Over a quarter of these bookings have no other associated charges. For an overwhelming majority of residents, cannabis arrests mean wasted public dollars that could be better spent.”
Despite continuing marijuana arrests, San Marcos police officers are obligated to give out written citations instead of making arrests through the city’s cite-and-release ordinance. Eric Martinez, Mano Amiga’s policy advisor, said citations still force offenders to go through the justice system, thus overly impacting underrepresented groups.
“The time has since long been passed that we should not be criminalizing our community and disproportionally impacting those who are marginalized, the poor, the Black and the Latinx among us because history has shown that possession of cannabis is the lead arresting charge and has been for quite some time,” Martinez said.
According to Texas’ Crime Report for 2019, there were over 45,000 arrests made for possession of marijuana in Texas. Of those arrests, over 14,000 were racial minorities and over 17,000 were Hispanic.
Although cite-and-release issues citations rather than arrests, Samantha Benavides, a Mano Amiga campaign fellow, said a citation can severely impact someone’s life by entering them into the legal system.
“While cite-and-release is groundbreaking and monumental, they still have to enter the legal system at a later date,” Benavides said. “They take that citation and show up to court and still have to pay court costs and fees and get their mugshot and fingerprints taken and pay for an attorney. We think we need to end all legal penalty for possession of marijuana.”
Minion also believes that being arrested or receiving a citation can impact how a person lives. She explains that an arrest can drastically change the trajectory of one’s life, impacting their ability to find sustainable employment and housing.
“An arrest creates a permanent criminal record that can be found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools and banks,” Minion said. “It can also result in the loss of employment, financial aid, housing and child custody.”
Mano Amiga plans to continue campaigning for the decriminalization of marijuana before they begin collecting signatures for the petition in January 2022.
“We will be looking to bring more onto our team to help us collect those signatures come January,” Benavides said. “We are especially interested in having more directly impacted people reach out to us, people who have been arrested, cited or gone through the legal system in any way. We really want to center the voices of directly impacted people in this campaign.”
To contact Mano Amiga, visit its website or call 512-766-6854.

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