Central Texas city council votes down marijuana ordinance, will go to voters in November
KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - An official decision to ban some arrests over marijuana possession has been pushed back.
The Killeen City Council voted Tuesday to allow voters decide on an ordinance that would ban arrests and ticketing of anyone with less than four ounces of marijuana.
A citizens petition to put the marijuana ordinance in place was started earlier in the year.
“We collected over 2,500 signatures and all I’m saying is that those are residents of Killeen, that’s a lot of people,” said Omar Marquez, a resident and petition advocate.
But even with that many people on the side of the petition, the recommendation from city officials was to not allow its implementation.
“Staff recommendation is that you do not approve this ordinance,” said Asha Pender, assistant city attorney said during the Tuesday night meeting.
The week before, the council was brief on some of the legal ramification of the petition.
But, even with that opposition present, advocates of the petition were firm in trying to get city council members to ok the petition.
“So please council, listen to the people,” said Shirley Fleming, another petition advocate.
It was with the help of the Austin-based Ground Game Texas that organizers gathered signatures and support. It was also Ground Game that cities like Austin, Denton and a few others in the state got similar petitions on the ballot for upcoming elections.
“If you want to change the law, fight to change the law. Don’t tell the police, ‘don’t enforce the law,’” said Jack Ross, an area resident.
Like a few attendees in Tuesday’s meeting, Ross was among those against the petition.
Even the city’s interim attorney said government code may not allow something like this to happen.
“This petition is under chapter 481 of the Health and Safety code and so that’s why staff recommendation is to not adopt this ordinance,” said Pender.
But, those with Ground Game had a different interpretation of what they are trying to implement in the city.
“We are asking to let voters decide to decriminalize a misdemeanor offense. We are not asking voters to decriminalize a felony offense,” said Julie Oliver, with Ground Game Texas.
Even though petition organizers continued to make their case, some people just were not having it.
“We do not need another destructive drug in our society,” said Donald Baker, another Killeen resident in opposition to the move.
During the meeting, Louie Minor – a resident and democratic candidate for county commissioner who heads the initiative locally – had a change of heart, in a sense.
“I want you to vote no on this petition… I want you to send it to the voters,” said Minor. “Allow the voters to tell you what they want in their city.”
City charter rules dictate petitions go to a vote if it is not OK’d by the council.
And after hearing from about 20 people, voting down the petition is what the council ultimately did. Now, the next stop is at the polls in November.
“Allow the citizens to have a voice in this and then we’ll let the courts figure it out,” said Minor.
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