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San Antonio could vote to decriminalize abortion, marijuana in 2023

The group ACT4SA says it is close to reaching the petition signatures necessary to put police reforms on the May ballot.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonians could vote on decriminalizing marijuana and abortion in the coming months. 

Local activist groups say they’re nearing the required number of signatures to get these initiatives on the May ballot.

The “justice charter” also includes other efforts to reform police policy, including cite-and-release measures for non-violent offenses, and ban the use of no-knock warrants.

While some of those changes have already been made, they're not set in stone.

The groups were collecting signatures on the city’s southwest side Friday afternoon, asking people to sign up for a petition for change. Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT 4 SA, says they’re closing in on their goal.

“We were already over 19,000 as of today,” Tomas said, adding the group has collected 35,000 signatures, at least 20,000 of which must be verified to get these initiatives on the ballot, per city charter.

The goal is to decriminalize marijuana possession under 4 ounces, decriminalize abortion by making it a rule that SAPD shall not arrest or surveil abortion providers or seekers, ban no-knock warrants and codify a cite-and-release policy.

“One of the things that I keep hearing is that San Antonians want their police to prioritize violent crimes, they want them to have faster response times to those violent crimes," Tomas said. "This is the solution to that."

Solutions to problems which the City of San Antonio has addressed differently.

San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus has previously stated they banned chokeholds in 2014 and got ride of no-knock warrants in 2020, after they were at the center of calls for change following the death of Breonna Taylor.

“In 2020 we wanted to have it codified back then so it would stay permanent no matter who your police chief is, but that did not happen,” Tomas added.

Abortion is now a felony in Texas after the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade due to a trigger law.

The City of San Antonio responded by passing a resolution which recognizes the right to an abortion; it was primarily a symbolic act that recommends city resources not be used to investigate abortions.  

“They passed a resolution that was watered down, doesn’t really hold a lot of teeth," Tomas said. "The idea is let's take this to the people to make a decision to enact actual policy."

The Bexar County DA’s office does have a cite-and-release policy which works with local law enforcement agencies, but ACT 4 SA wants to codify the policy within the city; that would prevent potential backtracking if a new district attorney is elected.  

The group, which says it has the support of the Texas Organizing Project and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, says it plans to submit those signatures to city hall on Jan. 10.



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