AUSTIN, Texas (Nov. 10, 2022) – On Tuesday, voters in five Texas cities overwhelmingly approved local ballot measures decriminalizing marijuana despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition on the same.
The new city ordinances in Denton, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin and Harker Heights prohibit city police from issuing citations or making arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana. In effect, the measures decriminalize possession of fewer than 4 ounces of cannabis. They also bar local police from using the odor of marijuana as the basis for a search unless they are investigating a high-priority felony narcotics crime or a violent felony crime.
The ballot measures were similar to the one that passed in Austin last May.
The measure passed in Denton by a 70-30 percent margin.
“This ordinance has now received more votes than any council member or mayor in the history of Denton,” Decriminalize Denton spokesperson Nick Stevens told the Denton Record-Chronicle. “We’re ecstatic that Republicans, Democrats and independents came together to reclaim their power in the city.”
The measures passed by large margins in the other four cities as well.
- San Marcos — 81-19 percent
- Elgin — 75-25 percent
- Killeen — 69-31 percent
- Harker Heights — 62-38 percent
Texas NORML Executive Director Jax James said the referendums indicate broader support for reforming marijuana laws in the Lone Star State.
“Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms in Texas via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box! This will have a positive impact on the almost half a million people living in these cities.”
Decriminalization of marijuana in these five Texas cities continues 50-year efforts by the states to nullify the feds, cities to nullify the states – and individuals to nullify them all.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains a complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
The decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana effectively removes a small layer of laws. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. In 2021, New York, New Mexico, Virginia and Connecticut legalized marijuana through legislative action, and Rhode Island legalized cannabis for adult use in 2022. With Missouri and Maryland legalizing marijuana on Tuesday, there are now 37 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and at least 21 legalizing for adult recreational use.
The lesson here is pretty straightforward. As Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin noted, “When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations, or mandates down our throats.”
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