Texas attorney general Ken Paxton is asking the court to overturn cannabis decriminalization policies passed and implemented in five cities and has vowed to overrule the “pro-crime extremists” who championed cannabis reform in the Texas cities. The Republican filed suits against the cities of San Marcos, Austin, Denton, Killeen and Elgin earlier this week to overturn their voter-passed cannabis decriminalization measures.
In the filings, Paxton cited relevant state constitutional and statute provisions and argued that these provisions prevented local governments from approving policies that were in conflict with state law. The AG also issued a press release stating that he would not stand by idly while Texas cities run by “pro-crime” extremists deliberately violated state law and promoted illegal drug use. He added that the municipalities that had enacted cannabis decriminalization laws in the last couple of years took unconstitutional action because cities cannot decide policies to be enforced.
Paxton’s legal action comes as cannabis reform activists with Texas Cannabis Collective and Ground Game Texas work to gather signatures that will allow decriminalization measures to be placed on the November ballot for the cities of Lockhart and Dallas. Lubbock voters will also have the chance to make a decision on a marijuana decriminalization, after legislators allowed a resolution on that issue to be placed on the May ballot.
The decriminalization initiatives passed in Denton, San Marcos, Austin, Killeen, Harker Heights and Elgin prevent law enforcement officers from issuing citations against individuals or arresting them for committing nonviolent or drug-trade-related Class A or B misdemeanor marijuana offenses.
Of the aforementioned cities, Harker Heights is the only city that wasn’t targeted by the AG’s lawsuits, likely because it refused to implement the voter-approved change in policy.
Ground Game Texas’ executive director Julie Oliver stated that the attorney general’s lawsuits were an assault on the authority granted to cities by the constitution, which allowed them to enact their law enforcement policies. Oliver issued a press release noting that a majority of voters in each of the cities cited in the lawsuits were in favor of cannabis decriminalization and the deprioritization of cannabis enforcement.
Oliver explained that voters approved resolutions to minimize racial bias in law enforcement efforts and direct public resources to public safety needs with higher priorities. She added that the AG’s description of promarijuana reform groups in the state as pro-crime organizations was ironic because he is currently being investigated for financial crimes. In her conclusion, Oliver noted that the suits attempted to deflect from the AG’s legal issues and his waning political influence.
The pushback from the attorney general in Texas to local efforts to decriminalize marijuana is likely to be a subject of interest to major marijuana companies such as Canopy Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: CGC) (TSX: WEED). This is because the outcome of those lawsuits could impact the manner in which drug-law-reform efforts progress in other states that have not yet ended prohibition.
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