As Killeen City Council members are set to speak on Tuesday about a petition signed by hundreds of registered voters who support the decriminalization of possession and low-level marijuana use, some residents have spoken on the issue. .
“I have no problem with decriminalization,” former Killeen Pro Tem mayor Elizabeth Blackstone said. “I think there are better things for our police to deal with.”
Blackstone is among approximately 1,400 people who have signed the Ground Game Texas petition. This organization is leading decriminalization efforts in Killeen, as well as in Harker Heights, where it collected enough signatures for a ballot in November.
Ground Game did the same in San Marcos and Austin, with voters in the latter city approving a ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana.
And decriminalization advocates also collected enough signatures in Denton and Elgin for ordinances or ballot initiatives.
Other signatories to the Killeen petition are Killeen NAACP President TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, Killeen City Auditor Matthew Grady, and Water Control and Improvement District Board Member Sandra Blankenship. of Bell County.
“I’m a huge fan of former Councilman Fleming and support all of her causes, including this one,” Grady said in an email. “I agree with those who believe that addiction and drug abuse are best treated as a health issue.”
3 COUNCILORS SIGN THE PETITION
The names of three current members of Killeen City Council – Ramon Alvarez, Riakos Adams and Ken Wilkerson – also appear on the petition, which the Herald acquired from the town through an open records request.
Neither Adams nor Alvarez responded to requests for comment, but Wilkerson told the Killeen Daily Herald in June that he had signed the petition as a “citizen.”
“That’s all you can sign,” he said. “If it goes to the ballot, I don’t object.”
Another signatory, Patsy Bracey, candidate for mayor of Killeen in 2022, could not be reached.
On Tuesday, Wilkerson and the other council members are due to “discuss the petition and motion order process” — vague language on the agenda to describe the legal requirements for validating petition signatures and whether it put the initiative on the ballot.
Under state law, if enough validated signatures are collected, the council must vote to call an election or decide whether or not to pass a motion ordinance.
“This could be a big year for Texas because there are currently five different decriminalization measures on November ballots in five different cities,” according to a Ground Game press release. “It looks like, even if progress is slow, it’s going to be a big year for decriminalization across (Texas).”
In Killeen, Ground Game said, the “order issued” to change city law would end enforcement of low-intensity marijuana offenses.
“We know that cannabis use is roughly the same across all demographics, but at this time we have no explanation as to why (Killeen Police) are targeting black and brown residents for the app,” said Ground Game’s Julie Oliver. “Our public information request revealed that residents of Black Killeen – approximately 40% of the population – account for nearly 80% of all felony possession arrests.”
The draft ordinance for Killeen requires “city police officers not to issue citations or make misdemeanor arrests for Class A or B possession of marijuana” except in limited circumstances.
A request for comment from Chief Charles Kimble of the Killeen Police Department through spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez was not answered. But at a board meeting in June, he was clear on his position on the matter.
“Whether it’s the Constitution, state law, county law, even county or municipal ordinances, the law is the guide, okay?” said Kimble. “The great thing about the law is that from the 1600s to today, it’s been moving. It’s not static. It depends on what is happening at the time. »
Davis Bass, a veteran with PTSD who received a prescription for medical marijuana through the state’s Compassionate Use Program, signed the Killeen petition.
“This decriminalization initiative in Killeen says up to four ounces of flower we’re not going to arrest people because it’s a waste of our law enforcement resources and it’s unfair because people who are arrested (have) long repercussions.”
According to documents provided by the city to Louie Minor, a Killeen businessman and candidate for Bell County 4 Commissioner, the number of marijuana arrests from January 2019 to May 2021 was 866. Of those- here, 654 are black, which equals 76%. Ten percent of those arrests are non-Hispanic whites, according to the figures.
Also in June, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze said in an email that state prisons shouldn’t be full of defendants charged with marijuana-related offenses.
“Governor. Abbott believes jail and jail are a place for dangerous criminals who can harm others, and possession of a small amount of marijuana is not the type of violation we want to stock jails with.
Meanwhile, in Harker Heights, this initiative aims to ensure that “class B misdemeanors for possession of marijuana” do not result in arrest or citations, except in certain circumstances such as a violent crime or a misdemeanor case. felony-level narcotics that has been “designated as a high priority investigation” by police, according to Ground Game.
“In other words, the aim is to focus only on high-level drug trafficking – not ordinary people who use cannabis. If this measure is adopted, it would also ensure that the police cannot give quotes to people who have simply sounded or used props.This will keep the system away from those who have either small amounts of cannabis or just a used pipe.
The Killeen Town Council meeting on Tuesday is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Town Hall.