Voters upset after two central Texas city councils push back on marijuana decriminalization measures approved at ballot box

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Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 5:34 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Some voters in Central Texas are upset after two city councils took action to repeal and place Proposition A, a measure that decriminalized marijuana up to four ounces, on hold.

Voters in Killeen and Harker Heights approved the measures at the ballot box on Nov. 8. On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Killeen City Council decided to place the proposition on hold, while Harker Heights City Council decided to repealed it.

The voter approved ballot measures decriminalized possession of less than four ounces of marijuana for personal use and prohibited law enforcement officers from stopping someone because they smelled of pot.

The ordinances, however, did not legalize marijuana and merely prevented people from being arrested for having up to four ounces of the plant.

In Killeen, the ordinance will not go into effect until city council can further discuss it. Until then, authorities will continue enforcing existing marijuana laws.

Bell County Precinct Four elect, Louie Minor, said there’s much confusion because voters did their part in passing the ballot measure.

“It was something that was voted on by the citizens, they canvas and certified the vote and it should be in effect,” said Minor.

Voters are asking why the council approved the proposition to go on the ballot if there was going to be push back.

“It should have never made it on the ballot, but we had no choice,” said former mayor and Current Killeen City Councilman Jose Segarra.

Segarra said the charter rules states if there’s a petition on a measure and the council votes against it, then it must go on the ballot.

Segarra said the mix up is that the charter didn’t specify anything relating to measures that will violate existing state law.

He said the charter is up for revision in the future.

“It should have said that ‘Anything that is petition that goes against the state laws will not be put on the ballot,’ but since it did not say that, we had no choice,” said Segarra.

Harker Height’s city council repealed the voter approved marijuana decriminalization ordinance. Harker Heights City Manager, David Mitchell, said the city’s attorney advised the council to repeal any ordinance that conflicts with current state law.

“What I would tell voters is that this battle is really at the state level. If they would like to see changes involving laws that have to do with marijuana or other drugs, they need to take that fight there,” said Segarra.

Minor said the voters for the proposition are disappointed and want their voices heard.

“They were mentioning recall. I know citizen in Harker Heights, especially, and in Killeen, are not happy,” said Minor.

Killeen’s city council will meet again to discuss on December 6, 2022.

Officials said they are looking to revise the language of the charter rules to avoid confusion again.

The update will be a year and a half from now.

As for the people who advocated for these propositions in the first place, they are pursing legal action in both cities.