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Language added to marijuana proposition, advocates say more needs to be done

Posted at 10:20 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 22:21:14-04

Come election day, the citizens of Killeen will be making their voices heard, deciding whether to decriminalize low-level weed possessions in the city.

If approved, Killeen will be only one of a hand full of cities in the state to do so.

After a petition with just over one thousand signatures and a move by the city council, it will be on the ballot come November 8th, with a minor adjustment. With a push from mayor pro temp Ken Wilkerson, a sentence will be added to help voters understand what exactly they are voting on.

"To have a specific sentence to just lay out in layman's terms, what exactly they're voting for is very important," said Wilkerson. "Some of the things that have to go along with that are procedural or that we would have to if we were to enforce this would come along with the ordinance. But that's not for the voters to decide. What we ultimately agreed on was to have the verbiage upfront, and then maybe have an explanation to go along with that."

Wilkerson said having clear and concise language is essential for the Democratic process. While opinions on this differ in the community Wilkerson believes if the voters decide in favor of the proposition, it could have major impacts on the city.

"I would say that there are a number of things that that our police and resources, that I would like to see them focus on," said Wilkerson. "We have some larger problems in Killeen. I think they're good at what they do, but I just don't want to have them wrapped up in just solely looking for people who are smoking marijuana or may even just be using hemp to a certain extent."

Anna Harris the Executive Director of JUST-US Participatory Defense, agrees.

"Considering the jail population is an issue and expansion, I think that that will be huge," said Harris. "Also, you know, it will cut down on the amount of cases and misdemeanor court because they won't be able to file for these possessions of marijuana, which I'll get thrown out anyway."

However, Harris said there's some questionable language in the proposition that leaves too much room for interpretation for officers.

"There's some questionable verbiage in the proposal when it says, except limited circumstances," Harris said.

"I think there needs to be verbiage clarifying what, you know, except limited circumstances. They can't be charged with the Class C misdemeanor for paraphernalia in lieu of that marijuana just to get somebody that's pretty awesome. Like they cut they covered a lot of bases but then they left it wide open."

The proposition reads as follows:

Shall an initiative ordinance be approved to eliminate enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses in the City of Killeen, to include the following:  

prohibit Killeen police officers from issuing citations or making arrests for Class A or B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses except in limited circumstances, prohibit Class C citations for drug paraphernalia in lieu of a possession of marijuana charge, prohibit the use of city funds or personnel to perform testing to confirm whether a substance meets the legal definition of marijuana except in limited circumstances, prohibit Killeen police officers from considering the odor of marijuana or hemp to constitute probable cause for any search or seizure except in limited circumstances, require that Killeen police officers receive training on the ordinance, require that policies and procedures be updated in accordance with the ordinance, require regular open meetings with stakeholders to discuss practices related to the ordinance, provide that a violation of the ordinance may subject a Killeen police officer to discipline, and require a report within three months of adoption of the ordinance and annually thereafter to be submitted to City Council concerning implementation of the ordinance?

Whether you plan to vote for or against this proposition, Wilkerson encourages you to make your voice heard.

"What I would say to the voters is pay specific attention to the first sentence that's mentioned in that in Proposition A, because that tells you what you're voting for," said Wilkerson.

Killeen has released previous statements to 25 news saying they do not support this ordinance.