LUBBOCK, Texas (KXAN) — An effort to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana appeared on the ballot recently in another Texas community, and the results turned out differently than similar initiatives, including here in Austin.

This past weekend voters in Lubbock overwhelming rejected Proposition A by a margin of 30 percentage points — 65% opposed the measure, while 35% supported it. If approved, it would have told police to stop arresting people for having less than four ounces of marijuana in most cases. The proposed reform drew loud opposition from local conservative leaders, like Texas Rep. Carl Tepper.

He explained why he believed the effort failed there, while six other Texas cities — Austin, Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen and San Marcos — already approved similar decriminalization measures.

“Because Lubbock has common sense,” Tepper said Thursday. “People from Lubbock travel a lot. We’re a great place to live, but our folks like to go out of town for vacation. Again, they’ve been to Portland; they’ve been to Denver; they’ve been in New York City. They have some common sense. Those other communities made a horrible, terrible mistake.”

Adam Hernandez with the group Lubbock Compact, which pushed for voters to approve Prop A, addressed whether he though the loss in Lubbock would affect the movement in Texas to bring about marijuana decriminalization reforms.

“We just weren’t able to get that voter turnout high enough, but in a lot of cities, you may not have that same issue,” Hernandez explained. “So I don’t think for the overall mission people should take this as sort of a bad sign if you will.”

So far the idea of decriminalizing marijuana has gone nowhere the Republican-controlled Texas Capitol. That’s why groups like Ground Game Texas are pushing local ballot measures to send a message to lawmakers and activate voters.

“Our big goals are basically two-part: democracy and social justice,” Mike Siegel, the political director of Ground Game Texas, said. “You know in Lubbock, for example, we produced a report showing that the African American community represents about 30% of [marijuana] arrests, but only 8% of the population. So we know that there’s racially discriminatory enforcement practices related to marijuana reform, but the other thing is we want to give people reason to vote. We find that there’s a lot of cynicism about political parties and candidates and so when folks can go vote for an issue, that’s more relatable to a lot of people and will give them a reason to go to the polls.”

One change that’s likely to come next year during the regular legislative session, though, is making it harder for cities to get these kinds of measures on a ballot. Rep. Tepper said he’s already planning to introduce such a measure.

“We’re all looking at closing that loophole so that you can no longer introduce something into a municipal referendum that would in the end be counter to state law,” Tepper said.

The Austin chapter of the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals (TAAP) is holding its annual symposium Thursday and Friday at the Austin Southpark Hotel, located at 4140 Governors Row in south Austin. Various sessions and experts are gathering there to share the latest, best ways to shape addiction treatment.

Brittany Bass, the president of Austin TAAP, said conversations are happening about what could happen during next year’s regular session. She said Thursday she’d like lawmakers to finally legalize fentanyl test strips, pointing to Austin police recently detecting fentanyl in marijuana after a deadly surge in local overdoses.

“We really need access to things like fentanyl test strips so that as we see more marijuana come on the streets, people have access to make sure that there’s not fentanyl in it,” Bass said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton previously announced he’s suing five of the cities where voters approved these marijuana decriminalization measures. Leaders with Ground Game Texas shared Thursday they would intervene in Austin’s case to defend the city’s results.

Harker Heights is not facing this same legal scrutiny, though, because the City Council voted to repeal the ordinance approved by that community’s voters almost immediately after the election.

However, two other cities could be the next to join them in this wave of locally-driven reform. Advocacy groups are working to collect enough signatures for this to appear on ballots in both Dallas and Lockhart.

What polling shows

When it comes to Texas voters’ feelings about marijuana legalization, pollsters from the University of Texas and The Texas Politics Project have regularly asked people about this.

According to the December 2023 statewide poll, a plurality of voters (34%) said marijuana possession should be legal in medical purposes only. Meanwhile, 30% said having small amounts for any purpose should be legal. Full legalization of marijuana had the support of 19% of the respondents, while 17% said it should not be legal in any circumstance.