HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — A voter-approved proposition to eliminate misdemeanors relating to low-level marijuana possession has been repealed by the Harker Heights City Council.
The vote took place on November 22 and the City of Harker Heights has since released a statement, stating the city has "no authority to enact an ordinance contrary to state law."
City Manager David Mitchell said that the council's decision is not meant to take "any position on State marijuana laws."
"Laws relating to marijuana possession and the enforcement of State laws are made by the Texas Legislature," Mitchell said.
Citing Texas Local Government Code §370.003 - Mitchell said that a city ordinance like Prop A "cannot override State law."
The code specifically relates to a Texas city not being allowed to "adopt a policy under which the entity will not fully enforce laws relating to drugs."
"Simply stated, cities in Texas do not have the authority to amend or ignore State law," Mitchell said.
"For those with an interest in changing the laws relating to marijuana,
"The Texas Legislature is the appropriate and only forum to seek those changes."
Responding to arguments that Harker Heights is a home-rule city that "possesses the power of self-government" - Mitchell cited limitations.
"Home rule cities may not adopt any law that is inconsistent with the Constitution of the State or of the general laws enacted by the Legislature," Mitchell said.
"The initiative ordinance was inconsistent with §370.003"
"The City also believes that it was inconsistent with another provision of the Texas Constitution that prohibits anyone other than the Legislature from setting aside Texas laws."
Mitchell also cited the council's concern that "young people" might have gotten confused under Prop A - stating they might believe that "no marijuana laws would remain in place."
A concern for police officers was noted as well - with Mitchell stating the council found the ordinance to be inconsistent with state law that requires police officers to "enforce the law" and "follow their oath."
"Current law gives officers discretion, so the initiative ordinance is consistent with an officer’s discretion to not arrest for a marijuana offense," Mitchell said.
However, Mitchell then voiced the council's concern that Prop A "restricted or eliminated, the authority of a police officer to enforce State laws."
Adding that a Harker Heights police officer "may be disciplined for following State law."
It's unclear what disciplinary actions the council was referring to specifically.
In closing, Mitchell stated that even if the ordinance had not been repealed, "marijuana laws would certainly be fully enforced within the city limits of Harker Heights by county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies."
Both the Bell County District Attorney and County Attorney have since been contacted.
They are said to be in agreement with the council - stating the initiative ordinance was "contrary to State law."