Amendment to decriminalize marijuana receives 50,000 signatures for Dallas ballot status
Ground Game Texas turning in 50,000 signatures at Dallas City Hall | photo courtesy of Ground Game Texas Facebook page

DALLAS, Texas – Activists have garnered 50,000 signatures for a ballot amendment here that will keep people out of jail for simple marijuana possession. The Dallas Freedom Act received the signatures to get on the ballot for the November 5 General Election.

In addition to keeping many out of jail, the measure will protect people who use marijuana for pain and PTSD and will take away an excuse for police to engage in violence against the public or to write tickets for frivolous matters.

Ground Game Texas started the campaign to get the Dallas Freedom Act on the ballot. The group says its mission is to advance social justice while advancing democracy. Their goal is to build campaigns on popular and progressive issues.

The Ground Game Texas Website states that Dallas police have made hundreds of arrests and thousands of citations for simple marijuana possession in the past years. These arrests have disproportionately targeted Black and Latino community members.

This city charter amendment doesn’t legalize marijuana. That has to be done at a state or federal level. Rather, this measure directs the Dallas police department to stop issuing citations or making arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Dallas AFL-CIO Central Labor Council voted to endorse the Dallas Freedom Act. | photo courtesy of Ground Game Texas Facebook page

On Thursday, July 25, Smash Da Topic, a community independent news platform in Dallas, Texas broadcasted a discussion with enthusiastic and passionate Ground Game organizers Tamara Neal, Changa Higgins, and other Dallas activists and community organizers. Some of the main work Higgins and Neal have been involved in is around police accountability.

Neal said, “It will change the lives of 2,000 people by not sending them to jail. It will keep people safe.” Neal said the movement to get signatures started in January 2024. Neal noted that this city charter amendment is about empowering Black and brown people and keeping the police from policing and criminalizing people of color and working-class people.

Smash Da Topic reporter, Shenita Cleveland and Neal discussed that Dallas, Texas, should follow so many states that have already decriminalized marijuana. Denton, Texas, has decriminalized marijuana.

Cleveland noted that Denton had the same ballot initiative which passed and the voter turnout soared during that election.

Ground Game Texas’ goal was to collect 20,000-35,000 signatures. Just to be safe, Ground Game Texas and their signature gatherers collected 50,000. Neal noted that they want to keep the city accountable when counting petitions.

In the roundtable discussion on Smash Da Topic, panelists like Neal and Lelani Russell pointed out that this city charter amendment saves the city money and that marijuana is not dangerous while opioids are.

Panelists said that the police department should focus on serious crimes instead of focusing on low-level, non-harmful offenses.

At the panel discussion, Higgins said to the internet audience: “November 5, if you have never had anything to vote for and say that Democrats and Republicans don’t care about you, and you say that there is not a reason to come vote, we need you to come vote, this is the reason to come vote: Stop the Dallas Police Department from arresting people for four ounces or less of marijuana. If you’ve never felt like there was something to vote for, this is the time to go vote, to get registered to vote.”

Higgins continued, “How many got evicted for a marijuana arrest? How many lost their job because they were in jail for a few grams or possession of paraphernalia, or mom lost her job, or dad, or brother, or lost money or disrupted their family over being arrested for a low level of marijuana offenses that never hurt anybody.”

Ground Game petitioners collecting signatures. | photo courtesy of Ground Game Texas Facebook page

Higgins said, “It’s bigger than the marijuana too because this is really about stopping the police from using it as an excuse to profile and harass us. This is one more step to get the police out of our lives. Arresting people for marijuana isn’t making anyone or the community safer. It’s not helping the police come faster when you do need the police.”

The panelists said that a lot of hard work went into getting these petitions signed and turned in.  It took a coalition of many organizations and hundreds of people getting signatures at shops, festivals, and areas all over Dallas. On Thursday, June 20, Dallas Labor, the Dallas AFL-CIO Central Labor Council voted to endorse the Dallas Freedom Act.

Community activist Lelani Russell argued that marijuana can heal and help people and that it can treat arthritis and chronic pain.

Russell pointed out that marijuana charges can cause people to lose their government assistance.

Russell directly addressed her community, speaking from firsthand experience of trying to get people politically active and to vote: “There’s always an excuse to not vote. When you decide that you don’t want to speak up, you lose your voice. You’re allowing other people to dictate how you are going to be treated.”

Russell said, “Go stand up and say you cannot treat me or my daughter, my nephew, my family member anyway, it is not just for you, it is for everybody, it’s to save your entire family. Vote together, go to the group. You can go to the club and go to brunch together, you can go vote together. Stand up, speak out, and vote to change the world.”

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Stu Becker
Stu Becker

Stu Becker is an activist and organizer in Dallas, Texas. He is a high school social studies teacher, and a member and organizer in the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.