As law enforcement agencies in Texas figure out how to test suspected marijuana following the legalization of hemp in the state, the Austin City Council responded Thursday with its fix: a measure that effectively decriminalizes small amounts of pot.
“It’s the right thing for criminal justice reform, from a common sense perspective, and it’s the right thing for racial equity,” Council Member Greg Casar, who co-sponsored the measure, said after the vote.
In a 9-0 vote, council members asked police officers to stop citing and arresting people for low-level marijuana cases when they believe the county won’t be able to prosecute. Council members also voted not to spend city money on testing except in high-priority felonies, such as violent or trafficking offenses, leaving courts to figure out other means of distinguishing marijuana from hemp.
It’s still up to the police department’s discretion, however. In a tweet Wednesday, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said, “The City Council does not have the authority to direct APD not to enforce a state law.”