Feb 1, 2024 - News

Texas AG sues Denton, Austin over marijuana decriminalization

Illustration of a gavel, but the handle is a marijuana joint.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Denton and four other cities over their policies to decriminalize marijuana.

Details: The suit alleges municipalities don't have the authority to do so under state law, the AG's office announced Wednesday.

  • Denton officials tell Axios they are aware of the lawsuit but have not yet filed a response.

Why it matters: The news represents the Republican-led state's latest attempt to roll back Democratic cities' home rule authority.

Catch up fast: Denton voters overwhelmingly approved an ordinance to decriminalize low-level marijuana offenses in 2022, which boasted the largest turnout for a municipal election.

But, but, but: It is not actually being enforced yet, following city council fears that Denton would face litigation.

  • In June, the council voted not to adopt the ordinance despite voter passage, per WFAA.

The latest: The AG's lawsuit, which also targets Austin, San Marcos, Killeen and Elgin, seeks an injunction to force Denton to repeal the ordinance.

  • The suit states that municipalities cannot implement ordinances that contradict the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure or counter state law.

The big picture: More than half of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use.

What they're saying: "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.

  • The other side: Nonprofit advocacy group Ground Game Texas called the suit "an anti-democratic assault on the constitutional authority of Texas Home Rule cities to set local law enforcement priorities."

What we're watching: Ground Game Texas is collecting signatures in Dallas to push a similar marijuana decriminalization ordinance.

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