Ken Paxton announced lawsuits against Austin and four other Texas cities for decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession.
The lawsuit targets Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin and Dento for “instructing police not to enforce Texas drug laws concerning possession and distribution of marijuana.”
In 2022, voters in those five cities approved measures that would decriminalize possession of less than four ounces of marijuana, ending arrests and citations. However, none of the cities have legalized the drug, meaning it can’t be bought and sold openly. The initiative was led by Ground Game Texas, which first introduced the proposal in Austin. The organization then worked with the other four cities to get the initiative on the ballot.
In a Wednesday press release, Paxton said the cities violated state law and the Texas Constitution regarding marijuana. He claimed that the cities had no authority to pass ordinances that conflicted with state law.
Austin and the other four cities are home-rule cities, meaning that state law allows them to pass ordinances unless it’s specifically prohibited by state or federal law.
“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,” Paxton said in a statement.
Ground Game Texas also released a statement, saying they “won’t back down.”
“Ken Pxton’s lawsuits represent an anti-democratic assault on the constitutional authority of Texas Home Rule cities to set local law enforcement priorities,” said Julien Oliver, executive director for Ground Game Texas. “In each of the cities sued, a supermajority of voters adopted a policy to deprioritize marijuana enforcement in order to reduce racially-based law enforcement outcomes and save scarce public resources for higher priority public safety needs.”
In recent months, Paxton’s office has been criticized for focusing on cases that could give him political advantage or push a political agenda instead of actually focusing on crime. An Associated Press investigation found that his staff dropped a series of human trafficking and child sexual assault cases after losing track of one of the victims.
The same AP investigation revealed that Paxton may not really be interested in all cases involving drugs, since six people indicted on allegations that they forced teenage girls to “exchange sexual contact for crystal methamphetamine” are now free.