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Ordinance to decriminalize low levels of pot possession headed to November ballot in Killeen

If adopted, the Killeen Police Department would decriminalize misdemeanor marijuana possession, which is less than 4 ounces.

KILLEEN, Texas — On Tuesday, the Killeen City Council unanimously voted against an ordinance that would've decriminalized low levels of marijuana possession.

During a public hearing held that night, council members reasoned against the ordinance because they would rather have Killeen voters decide whether or not to adopt it. As a result, the ordinance is headed to the November ballot.

The ordinance was brought on by a petition that was started by the Ground Game Texas. If adopted, the Killeen Police Department would decriminalize misdemeanor marijuana possession, which is less than 4 ounces. If passed, it would also prevent police from using the odor of marijuana as probable cause for a search and seizure.

The council chambers was packed and more than 20 people voiced their concerns and comments to the council on the matter.

"It's against federal law, it's against state law, change the law -- don't try and play little slicky games to get around it and put our kids at risk, put our police officers at risk," one man said. "I'm sorry folks -- that's what this is going to do."

"We had 2,500 people that signed this petition here," a former Killeen council member said. "We could not force them to sign, they did it on their own."

Council member Jessica Gonzales was happy many chose to have a voice at the meeting Tuesday but believes everyone else should have a say, too.

"Somebody mentioned here that they were not sure about where they stood in this process and I also think that is beautiful and my hope is that between now and November, whichever way you decide, that you educate yourself between now and November and take yourself to the ballot," she told the crowd in the chambers.

Louie Minor is running for Bell County Commissioner Precinct 4. He has been working alongside other residents and Ground Game Texas to get Killeen to take action on marijuana decriminalization.

"We're looking to be a leader, not waiting for the state to to pass it or the federal government to pass it," Minor said. "The citizens want to pass it here locally so that's what we're doing."

6 News spokes to Minor before the Killeen City Council made any decisions. He said while collecting several thousands signatures for the petition he realized how important the matter is in Killeen and how many people could benefit from decriminalizing misdemeanor amounts of marijuana.

"They would share stories with us, personal stories, of either their own experiences being arrested or family members and how it's affected their lives, their employment situation, their educational situation for something as small as a joint or even paraphernalia, so that's why this is important," Minor explained.

Julie Oliver, co-founder of Ground Game Texas was in attendance of the city council meeting Tuesday night. Before the city council meeting started, she told 6 News she believed the ordinance would pass at some point.

"We got over 2,000 signatures of residents in Killeen who really want to see this ordinance pass," she said "Whether it happens at city council tonight, whether it happens in November -- it will pass eventually. I want to let the people decide, I think it's an important issue and the people should decide. My hope is that they'll send it to voters in November."

Ground Game Texas, a voter engagement and mobilization organization, started the petition in Killeen as they have also done in other cities across the state like, Harker Heights, Denton, El Paso and Austin.

Austin decriminalized misdemeanor amounts of marijuana back in May. Denton officials voted to put it on the ballot in November.

Harker Heights City Council was set to take action on a proposed ordinance or marijuana decriminalization Tuesday night, as well. 6 News is working to confirm what decision was made by council members.


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