The passing of Resolution 59 will serve as legal relief to numerous Austin residents – particularly people of color – who have historically been over-impacted by the consequences of criminal marijuana enforcement.
The passage of the resolution has the following impact:
- A commitment to no longer allocating City of Austin financial and personnel resources to test THC levels for low-level marijuana offenses
- To the extent allowable under state law, prevent APD from citing and arresting individuals for Possession of Marijuana Cases as Travis County Attorneys indicated last year they will not prosecute low-level possession cases without the lab results that distinguish narcotic marijuana from legal hemp.
- This applies to all possession offenses, which would include Class A Misdemeanor Possession up to 4 oz and Felony Possession of THC (e.g. vape pens, edibles, etc.
It’s the right thing for criminal justice reform
“It’s the right thing for criminal justice reform,” Council member Greg Casar, lead sponsor of the resolution, said. “It’s the right thing from a common-sense perspective, and it’s the right thing for racial equity.”
Arrests in Austin due to possession were already on the decline since 2018 thanks to the Freedom City policies passed by City Council that urged APD cite-and-release over arrests. The primary objective of the Freedom City policies was to reduce racial disparities in discretionary arrests.
The effort piggybacks off of the Texas Legislature’s 2019 decision to legalize hemp, which, like marijuana, is a byproduct of the cannabis plant. The state defines hemp as containing less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
It is important to note that the City Council Resolution does not “decriminalize” marijuana possession, but rather it is aimed to deprioritize enforcement against it.