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Published on June 13, 2024
Austin Judge Upholds Decriminalization of Marijuana, Rejects State Lawsuit in Landmark RulingSource: Unsplash/ Elsa Olofsson

In a significant move for marijuana reform policy in Austin, a Travis County judge has upheld the city's ordinance decriminalizing the possession of marijuana, dismissing a lawsuit that contended such local measures violated state law. This judgment rejects the legal challenge initiated by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had accused the city of Austin, along with other cities including San Marcos, Killeen, Denton, and Elgin, of promoting "the use of illicit drugs that harm our communities" by passing local decriminalization laws, as the Texas Tribune reported.

Paxton's lawsuit, filed in January 2024, clashed with the May 2022 decision of Austin voters who backed a proposition to decriminalize the possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana, a move that aligned with the city’s existing practice where police were not prioritizing low-level possession arrests, especially given the challenges of distinguishing legal hemp from marijuana since the former’s legalization in 2019. Despite the lawsuit, efforts to replicate Austin's model have surfaced in Dallas, signaling a broader shift in Texas's stance on marijuana, as noted by activists and observers keeping an eye on the unfolding legal landscape.

The ruling, hailed as a pivotal moment for marijuana reform, was championed by Ground Game Texas, a nonprofit focused on voter engagement and the organization behind Austin's decriminalization push. "This is an exciting and important victory for marijuana reform policy in Austin," Amy Kamp, spokesperson for Ground Game Texas, affirmed in a declaration, suggesting that the judgment could serve as a meaningful precedent for the other cities facing similar lawsuits. The significance of Austin's legal win may chart a new course as maneuvers to relax marijuana laws gain traction across Texas.