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Texas Governor Criticizes Local Cannabis Decriminalization Efforts

Texas Cannabis

The Republican governor of Texas has voiced opposition to cities attempting to locally decriminalize marijuana, asserting that they lack the authority to "override" state law.

Three months following Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's legal action against five cities over voter-approved cannabis decriminalization policies, Governor Greg Abbott addressed the imminent vote in Lubbock, where the reform is slated for the local May 4 ballot.

Governor Abbott emphasized to KAMC that his concern extended beyond the decriminalization issue, focusing on the principle of localities surpassing state laws. He stated, "Local communities such as towns, cities, and counties don’t have the authority to override state law. If they want to see a different law passed, they need to work with their legislators. Let’s legislate to work to make sure that the state, as a state, will pass some of the law."

While Abbott has previously expressed his opposition to incarcerating individuals for marijuana possession, he mistakenly indicated that Texas had already enacted a decriminalization policy.

In a recent interview, Abbott cautioned against allowing individual cities to selectively adhere to state statutes, labeling it an "unworkable system" that would lead to "chaos."

Early voting on the Lubbock measure commenced on April 22 and will continue until April 30, with Election Day scheduled for the following Saturday.

Attorney General Paxton employed stronger language when announcing lawsuits against five cities over local marijuana decriminalization laws, vowing to counter the "anarchy" of "pro-crime extremists" advocating for the reform.

Paxton filed lawsuits against Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin, and Denton. Despite the ongoing litigation, advocates in Lubbock are pushing forward with their local reform efforts.

Adam Hernandez, the campaign director for the Lubbock decriminalization initiative and a mayoral candidate, expressed that the attorney general's lawsuits have spurred support for the reform proposal, stating, "They’ve been getting a lot of pushback from the community—people calling out a lot of the misinformation that’s been going around."

Hernandez remains undeterred by the potential for legal action against Lubbock if the cannabis measure passes, noting a provision in the measure prioritizing decriminalization even if voided by the state.

In December, lawmakers in Lubbock authorized a resolution to include the local decriminalization initiative on the ballot after declining to enact it legislatively.

Meanwhile, activists in Dallas and Lockhart are gathering signatures to place local marijuana decriminalization initiatives on the November ballot.

The enacted measures in Austin, Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen, and San Marcos prevent police from arresting or citing individuals for Class A or B misdemeanor cannabis possession offenses, except in cases involving high-priority felony investigations.

The Killeen City Council initially paused implementation of its voter-approved ordinance, citing legal concerns, but later approved it. Bell County subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the policy.

At the state level, the Texas House of Representatives passed bills to decriminalize marijuana and expand medical cannabis access, but these efforts stalled in the Senate, reflecting a recurring theme in conservative legislature sessions.

Despite challenges, support for marijuana decriminalization and legalization remains strong among Texas voters, as evidenced by recent polling data.


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