Mano Amiga, decriminalization of marjuana

Mano Amiga representatives CJ Cetina and Elle Cross advocate for the decriminalization of marjuana, Sunday, Jan.16, 2022,  at the San Marcos flea market

San Marcos-based activist groups Caldwell/Hays Examiner and Mano Amiga are working together to decriminalize marijuana in the city. 

This month, the groups will collect signatures at Texas State in hopes of securing the ordinance on the November 2022 ballot. The groups began collecting signatures in December of last year but need at least 10% of registered voters in San Marcos, 4,400, to sign the petition before the ordinance can secure a position on the ballot.

About 900 signatures of the 4,400 necessary have been collected so far. The groups have campaigned across San Marcos at locations such as The Square, flea markets and outside of grocery stores.

Samantha Benavides, communications director at Mano Amiga, said the petition to decriminalize marijuana is expected to be largely signed and advocated for by young adults and university students.

“I feel like this is something that's really popular across the political spectrum,” Benavides said. "It has been a lot easier to get signatures from young people just because we know where to find them in masses. On campus, we're going to start tabling this coming week and we're expecting to get a really big chunk of signatures there.”

A representative from Mano Amiga will collect signatures from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday thru Thursday on the Quad throughout February.

The group is targeting university students with its campaign as the criminalization of marijuana greatly affects international students as well as those who rely on scholarships to attend schools like Texas State. Possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia charges can jeopardize a scholarship opportunity and make reentering the country or university difficult for international students and non-citizens.

“There are still ramifications for international students and for students that are on financial aid,” Jordan Buckley, publisher at Caldwell/Hays Examiner, said. "[At Texas State] it's two strikes and you're expelled for any drug conviction. So, if you get caught with marijuana on two occasions at Texas State University, you're out, you're gone.”

Policy Director at Mano Amiga Eric Martinez is concerned for international students traveling home with possession of drug paraphernalia (PODP) as the U.S. government doesn’t have a distinction between marijuana-related paraphernalia and harder narcotics.

“[Drug paraphernalia] charges can have consequences for them, particularly if they're an immigrant or a non-citizen because the federal government sees PODP charges and they don't make a distinction between rolling papers and needles and that could get international students in trouble,” Martinez said.

According to Buckley, the decriminalization of marijuana is intended to build off the city's cite and release, an ordinance where San Marcos police officers are obligated to give out written citations instead of making arrests.

Buckley explained how a citation will still enter someone into the legal system and can have negative effects on their life. If the ordinance is passed, there will be no legal penalty for possession of marijuana in the city under the amount of four ounces.

“[Under cite and release] you still get a citation - you still get a criminal record for having marijuana on you. This would take it a step further and make it so that there's no penalty, there's no citation. There's no going to jail,” Buckley said.

Mano Amiga and the Caldwell/Hays Examiner are looking for students to take the positions of "Clipboard Captains." Students who want to be involved in collecting signatures can reach out to the organizations or speak to them on campus.

“Even for students who aren't looking to be, you know, politically active, this is a way to just you know, make a change in the community and help their peers out," Benavides said.

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