Austin decriminalizes marijuana possession - What's Your Point?

This week’s panel: Wayne Dolcefino, media consultant;; Bill King, former mayoral candidate, businessman and columnist; Tomaro Bell, super neighborhood leader; Michele Maples, conservative attorney; Charles Blain, Urban Reform; Craig Jackson, Professor, TSU Thurgood Marshall School of Law join Greg Groogan in a discussion about recent changes to law enforcement regarding marijuana in Austin and what that means for the rest of the state.

AUSTIN, Texas  (KTBC) - The City of Austin will no longer pursue low-level marijuana possession cases.

In a unanimous vote, the Austin City Council voted to stop spending money on marijuana testing. "It’s the right thing for criminal justice reform, it’s the right thing from a common-sense perspective, and it's the right things for racial equity,” said Austin city council member Greg Casar.

Council chambers were packed Thursday as dozens of people spoke in support of this new decriminalizing resolution.

The new resolution doesn't make marijuana legal in the city, it's still illegal in Texas. This resolution instead prevents spending city dollars on lab equipment for law enforcement to test the difference between hemp, which is legal in Texas, and low levels of marijuana. "This is the furthest the city council can go to minimize our resources to this thing that has been hurting folks for too long,” said Casar who co-sponsored the resolution. 

FOX 7 Austin spoke with APD Chief Brain Manley on what this means for the department. “We've done a lot of work in this space already to minimize low-level arrests for low-level violations,” said Chief Manley. Chief Manley said his main concern lies with the fact that marijuana is still illegal so there isn't a safe place for people to buy it.

This can lead to drug deals which can turn dangerous or even deadly.

“We know that we've had murders over the past several years that in some form or fashion involved marijuana, the sale of marijuana, or the sale of THC vaping cartages. We have had murders that have taken place here, now those dealers may have been dealing marijuana on top of meth and other drugs but the fact is violence involved in the illegal drug trade,” said Chief Manley.

The council made clear that this resolution should not have an impact on felony marijuana cases.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses last year.