Ken Paxton sues five Texas cities to block ordinances decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession

ByIkram Mohamed, The Texas Tribune
Monday, February 5, 2024
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing five cities - Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin, and Denton - to block their ordinances decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession.

In 2022, voters in the five cities approved policies that would end arrests and citations for possessing of fewer than four ounces of marijuana. An initiative spearheaded by Ground Game Texas - the progressive group that first launched the proposition in Austin - worked with local organizations in the other four cities and succeeded in pushing for similar policies to appear on the ballots.

Paxton said in a Wednesday press release that the cities violated state laws and the Texas constitution concerning marijuana possession and distribution, claiming it to be unlawful for municipalities to adopt ordinances inconsistent with laws enacted by the Texas Legislature.

The ordinances had high levels of support. Austin received an overwhelming 85% of votes in support. In San Marcos, about 82% of votes were in favor. Elgin followed with almost 75% of votes in support. Denton, home to two universities, had about 71% votes in favor. Killeen had close to 70% in support.

The five cities are home-rule cities, which are jurisdictions that under the Texas constitution are allowed to establish any law or ordinance unless it's expressly forbidden by state or federal law. However, Paxton argues the Texas Local Government Code forbids them from adopting policies that would result in not fully enforcing drug-related laws. Paxton is seeking to repeal the city's ordinances and make them enforce state law.

"I will not stand idly by as cities run by pro-crime extremists deliberately violate Texas law and promote the use of illicit drugs that harm our communities," Paxton said.

A spokesperson for the city of Austin said it will issue a comment Thursday. Officials for the other four cities couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

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