While most of the country is legalizing adult-use marijuana, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is taking the opposite approach and suing five cities for taking a lax approach to marijuana offenses. Paxton filed the case on Wednesday saying the cities were violating the law by refusing to prosecute cannabis lawbreakers.
The main city that was targeted was Austin, home to the state capital. Other cities included the college towns of San Marcos and Denton, plus Killeen and Elgin. The lawsuit is going after the city mayors, council members, and police chiefs.
Missing from the list is Harris County which includes Houston. According to Trey Porter Law, “Harris County possession cases involving 4 oz or less will result in only a summons and diversion program as local authorities have partially decriminalized petty marijuana offenses.”
“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,” said Attorney General Paxton in a press release. “This unconstitutional action by municipalities demonstrates why Texas must have a law to ‘follow the law.’ It’s quite simple: the legislature passes every law after a full debate on the issues, and we don’t allow cities the ability to create anarchy by picking and choosing the laws they enforce.”
The Attorney General wants local law enforcement to be able to arrest individuals for marijuana possession including paraphernalia and even just marijuana residue. The complaint states that the cities can’t pass any laws not enforcing drug laws as that would be against the Texas constitution.
Paxton knows about breaking laws
Paxton has faced personal corruption allegations and managed to not be impeached by his fellow Republicans in the state. He still faces state securities fraud charges, and there is speculation that his former associate Nate Paul may have flipped on him after facing his federal charges.
Paxton is a hard right politician who has fought gay rights, and abortion rights and has supported January 6 insurrectionists. He has also said he would consider bringing back sodomy (oral and/or anal sex) laws.
Texas legalized medical marijuana for a very small set of qualifying conditions in 2015. The Compassionate-Use Act allowed the first legal use of low-THC cannabis products in the state for patients with intractable epilepsy. It was expanded in 2019 and 2021 to include other conditions.
In 2022, Texas NORML released the Marijuana Possession Arrest Report covering 2017-2021. During the time, possession accounted for roughly 97% of all marijuana arrests, almost half of which were of Texans aged 17-24. NORML found that possession arrests for Blacks increased from 19,040 (2017) to 19,760 (2018) and 7,457 (2020) to 7,466 (2021) respectively. Whites experienced a 7.6% drop in the overall share of arrests between 2017-2021. Hispanics increased 2.5% and Blacks increased 5.9%.