Judge dismisses Paxton lawsuit to reverse Austin marijuana decriminalization ordinance

Two days after hearing arguments from the Texas Attorney General’s Office and cannabis advocates, a Travis County judge Wednesday dismissed Ken Paxton’s lawsuit trying to reverse Austin’s move to decriminalize marijuana.  

"This is a really important victory. I think it vindicates voters," said Catina Voellinger, executive director of Ground Game Texas. 

In 2022, 80 percent of voters approved the Austin Freedom Act, decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession in the city. This January, Paxton sued Austin over it, as well as San Marcos, Elgin, Killeen and Denton for similar pot policies. 

At the time, Paxton said, "The legislature passes every lawsuit 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 further argued those laws are designed to protect the public.

"I don't think it's about how he feels about marijuana. I think it's really just to silence the voice of the people," said Voellinger. 

Ground Game Texas, which gathered the signatures to get the ordinance on the ballot, says the ruling is a win for local control. 

"Cities are allowed to prioritize what is good for their citizens, and their safety," said Voellinger. "Are we wanting our police officers to go after someone with personal amounts of marijuana, like just a joint? Or are we wanting them to focus on real issues like domestic violence?"

Notably, Austin police had already stopped going after misdemeanor pot possession back in 2020, unless it’s tied to a larger felony case. 

"What we did was just codify something that they were already practicing," said Voellinger. 


The Attorney General’s Office could appeal the decision, but the judge ruled the ordinance will stay in effect in the meantime. Courts in the other four cities have yet to rule on the suit. 

"I think this is super validating to the movement in general," said Voellinger. "This should be a wakeup call of how, you know, where Texans are."

FOX 7 Austin reached out to the Attorney General’s office for comment, but as of Tuesday evening, have not heard back. 

A spokesperson for the City of Austin responded to Wednesday’s ruling in a statement, saying:

"We appreciate the court’s time and careful consideration and are pleased with the outcome. The ordinance challenged by the now-dismissed lawsuit reflects the will of the voters, who sent a clear message that law enforcement should prioritize resources to focus on critical public safety issues, rather than low-level marijuana possession. At its core, the ordinance does exactly that, without removing reasonable discretion from police officers to enforce the law."