Local Businesses in Austin Want Legalized Cannabis
While it is likely you’ve heard the common saying, “everything’s bigger in Texas”, many decriminalization advocates are realizing a discrepancy when it comes to Austin cannabis. Too many barriers continue to prevent Austin cannabis businesses from serving patients and consumers. The only thing “big” here seems to be the barriers with Austin, Texas cannabis laws.
And, despite Austin City Council passing a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, many activists, organizers, residents and Austin cannabis business owners say it’s just not enough.
Is Cannabis Legal in Austin? Well, Sorta
While most Texans are hard-wired against cannabis legalization, residents of the live music capital of the world seem to be more lenient on the state-wide ban of any amount of marijuana.
Mainly due to the abovementioned resolution penned by The Austin City Council and Austin Police Department that publicly agreed to “refrain from bringing charges against someone possessing misdemeanor amounts of marijuana”, ranging from 0 to 4 ounces.
Police chief Brian Manley stated that “APD will no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor ‘possession of marijuana offenses, unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so as part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony,” the Texas Tribune reported.
Here’s the Catch:
APD police officers that encounter a person in possession of a misdemeanor amount of cannabis are still instructed to seize the drug, file a report about the encounter, and then release the person(s) without charges. So, while Austin residents won’t receive charges, they’re losing valuable cannabis due to this provision.
To be clear, though, refraining from already problematic policing of marginalized communities, loosening up enforcement and “decriminalization is NOT the same as legalization”, as Chris Perry shared with popular Austin lifestyle and culture website, do512.com. Perry, an Austin-based attorney went on to educate us on the difference between decriminalization and legalization.
Is There a Difference Between Legalization & Decriminalization?
Decriminalization means that local law enforcement agencies are choosing not to enforce certain laws, while legalization means beginning to remove all the obstacles that communities most impacted by the War on Drugs experience. It means reinvesting regulated tax revenue in these communities. It also means Austin residents being free to buy, sell and grow cannabis and hemp plants for medical or adult-use purposes.
Legalization means that marijuana/cannabis can be legally bought and sold. In some states, such as California, Colorado and Oregon, medical and/or adult-use cannabis is fully legal. However in others, marijuana has been decriminalized, meaning the police won’t arrest you if they see it in small amounts, also according to the website, Do Awesome Stuff in Austin.
In some counties like Travis County, you can almost bet that you will face criminal charges. So, while knowing the difference in definitions will be helpful for Texans, it is also important to know what city and county lines you’re within at all times.
What About Biden & Harris’ Promise to Decriminalize?
In Vice President Kamala Harris’ first public marijuana comments since the election, journalists were told that the, “Biden administration is too busy to follow through on its campaign pledges to decriminalize cannabis and expunge records”. According to Marijuana Moment’s overview of the press conference, both President Biden and VP Harris reminded us of other pressing matters for Americans, and that this topic is not forgotten.
“Honestly, right now, we’ve been focused on getting people food, helping them stay in their apartments or in their homes, getting kids back to school, getting shots into arms. That has been all-consuming,” said Vice-President Harris in the early April statement.
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