AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Pot brownies” have crept up on college campuses this week — and no, not the kind you’re thinking of.
Nonprofit advocacy group NextGen America has hosted tables at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University this week to discuss marijuana decriminalization, with an on-the-nose twist. The tables feature pots holding marijuana-free brownies for students to take as a way of lightheartedly opening up the political discussion, said Darren Nevares, NextGen’s Austin and San Marcos field organizer.
“It’s kind of just a tongue-in-cheek kind of joke,” he said. “And I mean, students seem to love it.”
While out tabling this week, he said it’s been an opportunity to reach students from a variety of backgrounds and political perspectives. He said NextGen is taking a nonpartisan stance on the topic, instead inviting students to talk through all the conversations behind marijuana decriminalization and educating them on the difference between decriminalization and legalization.
“It’s not our place to [give a political stance], but I do want to hear stories. And that is really important to me, first off, to kind of relate to people and the youth, especially,” he said. “Because it’s the most diverse generation so far, and each voice is important, no matter your political affiliation. I think you should have your voice heard by our country, our states, in general.”
Decriminalization removes criminal sanctions, fines or potential jail time from those caught possessing marijuana. Depending on the legislative policy approval, this might be limited to “low-level” offenses where a person is caught with a smaller portion of marijuana.
Meanwhile, legalization focuses on not only the removal of criminal sanctions for the drug, but also public access to the sales and purchase of marijuana, similar to tobacco and alcohol.
And decriminalization efforts are top of mind in Central Texas. In May, Austin voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to decriminalize “low-level” marijuana offenses. This follows action by the Austin Police Department in July 2020 to end arrests or ticketing for misdemeanor personal marijuana possession.
In San Marcos, an advocacy group is working to bring the question of marijuana decriminalization to the city’s November ballot.
Currently, marijuana is classified by the state of Texas as a Class B misdemeanor for possessions at or below two ounces, which is punishable by a $2,000 fine, up to 180 days in jail or both. Possessing or growing between two and four ounces of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $4,000 fine or both.
Beyond owning or growing four ounces of marijuana, that charge becomes a state felony, with multiple levels of jail time or fine amounts possible depending on the number of ounces or pounds of marijuana.
“It does seem like a really hot issue, just getting more talked about, and the conversation keeps appearing more often than not. And I think that’s kind of why we’re out here today and yesterday, again, to kind of give them the information they need to make a decision if they want to,” he said. “Even if some people aren’t even aware of what decriminalization of marijuana is, or what’s different between decriminalization and legalization. And I think it’s important to have those conversations once you have the education.”