Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has launched legal proceedings against five Texan cities—Austin, San Marcos, Elgin, Denton, and Killeen—questioning their marijuana amnesty and non-prosecution protocols. Filed on Wednesday, January 31, the lawsuits assert that these municipalities are breaching state regulations and endorsing the consumption of a substance deemed illegal, associated with adverse effects.
Paxton argues that the city regulations contradict both Texas laws and the state constitution. He claims that these regulations hinder the implementation of state marijuana regulations. Specifically, he mentions a part of the Local Government Code that bars local entities from disregarding drug regulations. Furthermore, he highlights Article 9, Section 5 of the Constitution, which prohibits municipalities from passing ordinances that go against state laws.
In a statement, Paxton affirmed his dedication to enforcing state law and condemned the leadership of the cities involved. He branded them as “pro-crime extremists,” intentionally flouting the law and advocating for detrimental substances. He stressed the significance of adhering to established laws and opposed the notion of cities selectively enforcing laws.
The ordinances vary in specifics across each city, but they do have similarities. Primarily, they prohibit the use of city resources and staff for testing suspected marijuana seized by law enforcement, with few exceptions. Moreover, certain cities, such as Austin, have guidelines instructing police not to arrest or issue citations for marijuana possession unless it’s associated with more severe crimes.
San Marcos chose not to provide a comment, while responses from other cities are still pending. Austin, governed by Democrats, draws particular scrutiny for its Proposition A, which imposes additional restrictions on marijuana enforcement and prohibits THC testing except under specific circumstances.
It’s crucial to recognize that Austin, Denton, San Marcos, Killeen, and Elgin are classified as “home-rule” cities, affording them extensive autonomy in local governance without requiring state legislative endorsement for ordinances. Paxton’s legal challenge revolves around asserting that their marijuana policies directly oppose state laws and the constitution, notwithstanding their home-rule designation.
This legal action comes in the wake of a California court decision in which a woman who fatally stabbed her boyfriend and attempted suicide while under the influence of marijuana was spared prison time, purportedly due to cannabis-induced psychosis. Though unrelated, this case could bolster Paxton’s argument regarding the adverse effects of marijuana.
Interestingly, the lawsuits were submitted one day subsequent to the Texas Supreme Court issuing a temporary halt to Paxton’s planned testimony in a whistleblower lawsuit connected to the impeachment charges brought against him in 2023.