Officials in five Texas cities are fighting voter-approved ballot measures effectively decriminalizing possessing small amounts of marijuana, The Texas Tribune reports.
Voters in Denton, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin and Harker Heights last month overwhelmingly approved measures to ban arrests and citations for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana. The measures also banned the funding of THC concentration tests and using weed smell as a probable cause for search and seizure.
Nearly 75% of voters in Elgin, a city with just over 10,000 people, voted in favor of the measure, as did about 70% of voters in Killeen, 70% of voters in Denton, 82% in San Marcos, and 60% in Harker Heights.
But now city officials are trying to block the measures.
The City Council in Harker Heights voted to repeal the measure just two weeks after it was passed, arguing the measure violates state law.
Voters and the group Ground Game Texas are now pushing to put the council’s decision to repeal on the May ballot.
Officials in Denton have warned that the measure clashes with a state law that says cities and police “may not adopt a policy under which the entity will not fully enforce laws relating to drugs.”
The Killeen City Council approved the measure only after removing a section banning the use of weed smell as probable cause for search and seizure.
In San Marcos, Hays County DA Wes Mau has requested an attorney general opinion on the measure to determine if it is enforceable.
Lawmakers push state change:
Some state lawmakers agree that the state legislature should follow suit and decriminalize marijuana.
The votes in cities are “what happens when we drag our feet at the state on policies that the majority of the state agrees with,” El Paso State Rep. Joe Moody told the Tribune.
Moody has introduced a bill to reduce penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and expunge marijuana convictions in certain cases.
Ground Game Texas, meanwhile, vowed to continue to organize local efforts to push decriminalization.
“It’s so incredibly popular and it’s going to get people out to vote,” executive director Julie Oliver told the Tribune. “That’s what we need in our state.”