LUBBOCK — An effort to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Lubbock is moving forward, despite Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suing five cities this week for doing the same.
Lubbock Compact, the organization behind the proposed initiative, said Paxton’s decision to sue Austin, San Marcos, Killeen, Denton, and Elgin for decriminalizing marijuana goes against what those voters have shown they want.
“This was actually on the ballot. People came out and made their voices heard,” said Adam Hernandez, communications chair for Lubbock Compact. “It’s extremely authoritarian.”
Texas lawmakers have long resisted calls to legalize recreational marijuana, and medical use is highly restrictive. This is why some cities have sought to at least decriminalize possession of small amounts. Voters overwhelmingly passed the ordinances, with 70-85% in favor in all five cities.
Lubbock residents have been working to join that trend over the last few months. Lubbock Compact circulated a petition and collected more than 10,000 signatures to get the proposal in front of the city council, which rejected the ordinance. Mayor Tray Payne previously said it contradicts state law.
In light of Paxton’s lawsuit, Hernandez said Lubbock Compact’s plans have not changed and hopes other cities also pursue decriminalization.
“It’s about showing state leadership where people’s sentiment is in a very real way,” Hernandez said. “One would hope they see voters showing up by the tens of thousands, and know that’s not a small thing.”
Hernandez added, “All we’re trying to do is keep people out of jail for personal marijuana use. We’re not even trying to fully legalize it.”
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Paxton said the five municipalities adopted policies that went against state law and violated the Texas Constitution.
“This unconstitutional action by municipalities demonstrates why Texas must have a law to ‘follow the law.’ It’s quite simple: the legislature passes every law after a full debate on the issues, and we don’t allow cities the ability to create anarchy by picking and choosing the laws they enforce,” Paxton said.
His office did not respond to a request from The Texas Tribune for comment regarding Lubbock’s upcoming election.
Lubbock residents will vote on the matter in May.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/02/08/lubbock-texas-decriminalize-marijuana-ken-paxton/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
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