Can a city or county legalize or decriminalize marijuana if the state still prohibits it

Assume a liberal city in a red state (maybe Austin Texas) decides to either legalize or decriminalize marijuana for either the city of Austin or all of Travis county despite the fact that the state government still considers it a crime worth prosecuting.

Do they have the ability to do that? Would city and/or county cops be ordered not to arrest people for crimes that violate state law? Would city and/or county cops offer protection from state or federal police in that situation?

Can a city pass an ordinance saying police are no longer allowed to enforce state law X? Can a city wide ordinance passed either by the voters or by politicians make a crime like marijuana possession a much lower priority for law enforcement?

Austin’s northern sister city, Madison, WI, did just that in 1977.

I find it interesting that under the definition of practitioner they specifically list podiatrist but not ophthalmologist.

It depends on the degree of home rule allowed to the municipality by the state. This varies tremendously, even between municipalities in the same state.

In general, you can’t directly prohibit police from enforcing the existing law. But you can clarify what their priorities should be, and allow them a degree of discretion.

Oh hell naw.

They can, and if the subject matter of that law falls within the city’s home-rule purview, it might even be legal. But states don’t grant cities much leeway when it comes to, say, felonies. In general local ordinances are limited to dealing with civil infractions and minor misdemeanors.

Sure. That doesn’t change the legality of it, but a recent example is that Mayor DeBlasio basically told the NYPD not to bother with arrests for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, and to issue civil summonses instead.

The powers that a city has depend on what is granted to them in the state constitution or by the state legislature. If the constitution or the legislature give it the power to overrule certain state laws in their jurisdiction, they can. If not, they can’t.

The local mayor, police chief, or sheriff (depending on the chain of command) can certainly order the local police force not to enforce a certain law or decline to process certain arrests. I doubt that such authority would extend to ordering the state police not to enforce the law in their city.

Last November, voters in Portland and South Portland, Maine voted to legalize possession of limited amounts of mj. As I understand it, this was largely symbolic, since those cities can’t override state law.

Sure they do - says “physician” right there in front. Ophthalmologists are MDs, podiatrists are not.

Props friedo. Well-answered.

It just means that city/county police/attorneys won’t arrest or prosecute for possession/personal use of specified quantities of marijuana. BUT they can’t prevent federal or state authorities from doing so.
Say you’re driving with a small amount of marijuana in your car. Local cop stops you for running a red light, you’re Ok. State trooper pulls you over for speeding, you’re in hot water.
Norman OK decriminalized pot back in the 1970s. 1st offense resulted in a ticket & fine - about $25.

Decriminalize and legalize could mean different things. “Decriminalize” could mean “stop arresting people”, or it could mean “change the law so it’s not a crime.” “Legalize” means change the law.

The law prohibiting possession of Marijuana is a state law. Only the Texas state legislature can change it.

Austin Police, like any police force, have discretion about when and whether to make arrests. At the Reggae Festival - so I’m told - they don’t make POM arrests, as long as you don’t blow smoke in their faces. If APD decides its resources are better spent doing things other than arresting/citing people for POM, it can do that.

The Austin City Council has no power to change Texas state law, however.

Ordered by whom? If Chief Acevedo told officers to stop arresting or citing people for POM, they’d presumably follow his instructions. He’s their boss.



No. The City Council is Acevedo’s boss, however. Presumably, if they told him incarcerating people for POM was a poor use of city and county resources, he’d most likely be responsive. If not, they have the power to find a new police chief.

I should add that POM is not a priority in Austin as it is. You have to be work pretty hard, and/or be pretty unlucky to get yourself arrested for it. And, in most cases, you’ll get a citation, not go to jail. Finally, if you get a lawyer, the likely outcome is dismissal in exchange for taking a class and doing some community service, and - maybe - paying a fine. I should emphasize in most cases. There are exceptions to every rule.

It is my understanding that when raids against marijuana dispensaries were being carried out by the DEA in places like California, law enforcement at the state, county and city level were trying to protect the dispensaries. I only read that as a blurb once, maybe I misunderstood it.

So why would something like that not happen on a state vs city level if it happens on a federal vs state level?

“Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced earlier this week that beginning on October 6, her office would no longer pursue criminal charges against non-violent, first-time pot offenders caught in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana”

That’s Houston, TX. Our mayor is a proud lesbian and I feel proud saying it too.

I suspect this is a case of poor communication from the journalist.
He used the term “protection” to describe something the state cops were doing, and while that was technically accurate it conjured the wrong image in your head.

See, “protection” is a pretty broad term, really, and covers lots of things.
For instance, it covers local law enforcement saying to the Feds “Please don’t do these raids.” Which totally might happen.
It might cover local law enforcement saying to the feds “we won’t cooperate with you in these raids”. Which might happen.
It might cover “If you do these raids, it will damage our relationship and you won’t get cooperation in the future”.
And i might cover local officers at the scene saying “Don’t arrest that guy.” which probably won’t ever happen.
And it might cover local cops getting in the way while the guy the feds want to arrest makes his escape. That totally isn’t going to happen.

Might the local cops try to persuade cops at a higher level to share their opinion that what (guy X) is doing is not a high priority for law enforcement? Yes. Could that be described as “protecting” (guy X) from (higher level cops)? Yes. But when you say “Would Local Cops offer protection from State Cops?”, that isn’t what most folks think you mean.

Ann Arbor did it back in the early 70s. Since then it’s been nothing but a broken down shell of a ghetto with crime running rampant (that’s sarcasm BTW).

Years before Colorado even started talking about legalization, the Denver City Council decided their police were wasting too much time and resources processing minor marijuana charges and ordered the police to reduce marijuana arrests to the lowest priority level, like jaywalking.

You pretty much couldn’t get arrested for possession unless it was part of another crime (DUI) or something like robbery (steal someone’s pot and you’d get burglary plus possession) or dealing.

I seem to recall Seattle was doing pretty much the same thing. Not strictly, or even technically legal. But practically legal in that you’re not getting arrested just because you’ve got half a gram in your hip pocket. It is, however, icing on your cupcakes if you’re in trouble for something worse like littering, creating a nuisance, or father-stabbing.