Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has a problem with Texas marijuana. The problem with marijuana doesn’t include every city in Texas. There are only five cities in Paxton’s crossfire, namely Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin, and Denton.
This swift move comes as a result of the attorney general’s concerns over what he refers to as “amnesty and non-prosecution policies” about the possession and distribution of marijuana – now Paxton has gouged the bulls and filed a lawsuit against all five cities to force the city leaders to end marijuana decriminalization policies and start prosecuting small-time weed smokers, and nickel and dime dealers in the Lone Star State.
Ken Paxton Statement
“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 statement.
Ground Game Texas
Ground Game Texas, a nonprofit organization that promoted progressive policies in the cities being sued for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana published the following information on its website after the ordinances won last year:
‘Voters in these cities have now shown strong support for the proposals at the polls. The campaign saw the highest level of support in San Marcos – home to Texas State University – with nearly 82% of the votes. Denton, which has several university campuses, saw more than 70% of the votes backing the proposition.
In Killeen, known for its proximity to military base Fort Hood, close to 70% of voters approved the proposition. Elgin, just outside of Austin, saw almost 75% of votes in support of the reform. And on the low end, more than 60% of voters in Harker Heights in Bell County cast ballots in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.’
“These meaningful reforms will keep people out of jail and save scarce public resources for more important public safety needs,” said Mike Siegel, political director of Ground Game Texas and a former Democrat congressional candidate. “We’re extremely happy with our results.”
Paxton’s Press Release
According to a press release issued on Wednesday, AG Paxton argues that these cities’ policies violate both Texas’ constitution and state law, which mandate municipalities and counties to uphold state drug laws. Additionally, these laws explicitly prohibit the implementation of any policies that restrict or impede the enforcement of such laws within these jurisdictions.
In the press release dated January 31, Paxton referred to the leaders of the aforementioned cities as mentioned earlier in this article, “pro-crime extremists.” To present a balanced report, KXAN News made inquiries to the cities of Austin, Elgin, and San Marcos for their comments on the matter. Subsequently, KXAN received a statement from Mano Amiga, a nonprofit and activist organization based in Hays County, addressing Paxton’s lawsuits. The statement provided by Mano Amiga can be found below:
San Marcos voters have been called extremists for decriminalizing low-level possession of marijuana, something done by more than half the states in our nation. Meanwhile, true radical extremists like Paxton continue to openly defy Supreme Court orders to remove deadly buoys with saw blades in the Rio Grande, polluting the environment while also endangering immigrant families desperately seeking a better life” says Sam Benavides, Communications Director with Mano Amiga. “Paxton should focus on preparing for his deposition for corruption rather than undemocratically defying the will of Texas voters.”
“As our state government continues to oppress us and undo the forward momentum of progress, which has resulted in an 85% decrease in needless marijuana criminalization in San Marcos, Mano Amiga remains resolute in our commitment to justice, compassion, and positive change. Rather than viewing this legal challenge as a setback, we see it as an opportunity to shed light on issues that demand attention. We remain committed to supporting Ground Game Texas in helping protect San Marcos’s policy.
ERIC MARTINEZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR WITH MANO AMIGA
Cities Decide To Ignore Some Laws
“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,” said Paxton in the release.
In AG Paxton’s legal action against the City of Austin, there are specific policies under scrutiny. One is Proposition A, which received, as stated by Ground Game, an overwhelming 79% approval from Austin voters during the year 2022.
And there is a general order issued by the Austin Police Department in 2020, which restricts officers from making arrests or issuing citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession unless it relates to a violent or narcotics-related felony offense. Nevertheless, both rules still empower APD officers to confiscate any substance they suspect to be marijuana.
Not Only Marijuana Laws Being Ignored
Paxton’s lawsuit also stated that municipalities have similar provisions in place for seizures and arrests associated with felony offenses.
Ground Game Texas denounced the lawsuits as “anti-democratic” and a clear effort to divert attention from Paxton’s legal predicament and waning political clout. A press release issued on Wednesday evening conveyed the organization’s discontent:
“In each of the cities sued, a supermajority of voters adopted a policy to deprioritize marijuana enforcement to reduce racially-biased law enforcement outcomes and save scarce public resources for higher priority public safety needs,” said Ground Game Texas executive director Julie Oliver in a press release”
“Furthermore, Oliver explained, ‘Paxton’s slander of so-called ‘pro-crime’ organizations that support marijuana reform policies is profoundly ironic coming from a person who is under criminal indictment for securities fraud, under federal investigation for other financial crimes, and has admitted to violating the civil rights of whistleblowers in his office.'”
The lawsuits will go before local courts in the cities’ jurisdiction.
Contributing Reporter Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected]