Texas AG Paxton sues cities over marijuana decriminalization

Texas AG Paxton sues cities over marijuana decriminalization

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) is suing five Texas cities over their decriminalization of marijuana.

In a Wednesday press release, the office of the attorney general (OAG) said it was suing the cities for “instructing police not to enforce Texas drug laws concerning possession and distribution of marijuana.

The drug, the OAG added, is one that “psychologists have increasingly linked to psychosis and other negative consequences.”

Paxton’s suit comes amid a broader push by the conservative state government to exert authority over its left-leaning cities.

The five cities targeted in Wednesday’s suit are Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin and Denton, each of which enacted laws decriminalizing marijuana one to three years ago. Paxton did not clarify why he chose to bring the lawsuit now.

Although none of the cities has legalized the drug — which would allow it to be bought and sold openly — each has passed ordinances directing police and prosecutors to deprioritize pressing charges against people holding small amounts of cannabis.

In Austin, for example, a 2020 city council resolution directed police not to press charges against those caught with less than 4 ounces of marijuana.

In November 2022, voters in the other cities now being sued by Paxton resoundingly approved ballot measures that decriminalized up to the same limit — though these reforms have drawn resistance from local law enforcement.

That opposition was strong enough to cause a sixth city — Harker Heights — to drop its decriminalization ordinance just two weeks after voters passed it.

And the Harker Heights city manager wrote in a 2022 letter that the responsibility to decriminalize rested with the state.

That’s an opinion that Paxton’s office shares — and one that informs the suit against the five cities that still have decriminalized marijuana.

The lawsuit announced on Wednesday is based on a reading of the Texas Local Government Code, which contains language forbidding cities and counties from any “policy under which the entity will not fully enforce laws relating to drugs.”

“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 in a statement.

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