AG Paxton sues Austin, four other Texas cities over marijuana policies

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced lawsuits against five Texas cities over “amnesty and non-prosecution policies” related to marijuana possession and distribution, according to a Wednesday press release.

The lawsuits target Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin and Denton.

Texas’ constitution and state law requires municipalities and counties to enforce state drug laws and prohibits policies that limit or prevent enforcement.

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Paxton called the leaders of those cities “pro-crime extremists” in the release. KXAN reached out to the cities of Austin, Elgin and San Marcos for comment.

KXAN later received a statement from Mano Amiga, a Hays County nonprofit and activist organization, in response to Paxton’s lawsuits, which can be seen 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 own 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

FILE - Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton makes a statement at his office, May 26, 2023, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Supreme Court on Friday, Dec. 8, put on hold a judge's ruling that approved an abortion for a pregnant woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis, throwing into limbo an unprecedented challenge to one of the most restrictive bans in the U.S. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton makes a statement at his office, May 26, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

“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.

The policies referenced in Paxton’s lawsuit against the City of Austin include a Proposition A, which 79% of Austin voters approved in 2022, as well as a 2020 Austin Police Department general order that prohibits arrests and citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession unless it would be a part of a violent or narcotics-related felony.

Both rules still permit APD officers to seize any substance they believe to be marijuana.

The other cities’ policies make similar allowances for seizures and arrests related to felony crimes.

Ground Game Texas, a nonprofit group that advocates for these policies, called the lawsuits “anti-democratic” and an “obvious attempt to deflect from Paxton’s embarrassing legal jeopardy and diminishing political influence” in a press release Wednesday evening.

“In each of the cities sued, a supermajority of voters adopted a policy to deprioritize marijuana enforcement in order 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, 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 within his own office.”

The group was involved in decriminalization campaigns in the five cities sued by Paxton.

The lawsuits will go before local courts for the cities’ jurisdiction.

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