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Charles T. Ganz

Texas AG seeks to repeal marijuana decriminalization ordinances

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Drug Crimes

Texas is among the relatively few states where possessing any amount of recreational marijuana is still a criminal offense under state law. Even possession of two ounces or less is considered a misdemeanor.

Two years ago, voters in five cities (Austin, Denton, Elgin, Killeen and San Marcos) approved local ordinances to decriminalize the possession of under four ounces of the drug. That means those in possession of this small amount wouldn’t need to fear that the law would be enforced against them, as long as the possession occurred within those protected jurisdictions. The ballot measures passed overwhelmingly in all five cities.

Last month, however, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he is suing these cities for violating both state law and the state constitution and intends to repeal the ordinances. He claims that localities don’t have the right to adopt policies that aren’t consistent with state laws. In announcing his action, the often-controversial AG said, “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.”

Are the ordinances allowed under “home rule?”

It should be noted that the five cities in question are considered “home-rule” cities. Under the state constitution, they are allowed to adopt their own ordinances and laws as long as these regulations aren’t “expressly forbidden” by either the state or federal government. Paxton is arguing that these decriminalization ordinances contradict state drug law.

It remains to be seen what will happen with these lawsuits. In the meantime, it’s wise to refrain from carrying any amount of marijuana with you if you’re in a public space. Of course, it’s easy to forget what might be at the bottom of a backpack or tucked into the pocket of a purse. Just remember that you have rights that protect you from illegal search and seizure and from having evidence obtained illegally used against you.

If you’re facing any kind of marijuana or other drug-related charge, it’s in your best interests to get legal guidance as soon as possible to help you protect your rights. Whether the charges against you seem appropriate or not, you’ll need help navigating your situation as it evolves.