Harker Heights might become the latest Texas city to decriminalize marijuana in November if voters approve the proposed ordinance to this effect. Following a decision by members of the City Council, a special election will occur on November 8 for the public to cast their votes on the initiative.
The genesis of the proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance can be traced to the works of the marijuana advocacy organization, Ground Game Texas. In June, the group succeeded in compiling enough signatures from Harker Heights residents to put the issue on the ballot. The goal of the organization is to end the legal punishment of minor marijuana offenses in Texas.
The initiative, known as the Harker Heights Freedom Act of 2022, hopes to stop city police officers from making arrests and citations for misdemeanor marijuana offenses. However, this may not apply to federal investigations. Summarily, residents of Harker Heights will be able to possess a specified amount of marijuana without legal consequences. Under current Texas laws, possession of marijuana is punishable by incarceration and fines.
In accordance with Harker Heights laws, Ground Game Texas successfully submitted the signatures of at least 25% of registered voters in the city to the City Secretary’s Office. After review, the City Secretary confirmed that the petition submitted is valid and corroborates with the requirements of the city charter.
Under the City Charter, members of the city council had a 60-day window to address the petition. The options were either to pass the proposed ordinance without an election or object to it. However, the provisions of the city laws require that if the city council votes down a citizen-led initiative petition, the initiative will proceed to the ballot. Therefore, residents will have the opportunity to make the final decision on the proposed ordinance in the city.
Members of the city council voted down the marijuana decriminalization initiative in a public hearing on the 26th of July. Following the city laws, the fate of the proposed ordinance is now in the hands of registered voters. Harker Heights officials plan to have a joint election with the Office of Election Administration of Bell County. On November 8th, residents will be able to make their decision in 42 polling locations throughout Bell County. Moreover, there are also provisions for seven pre-election day polling locations for early voters.
Residents have till the 11th of October to register to vote in the election, and residents that wish to use mail ballots must apply by the October 28 deadline.
Ground Game Texas hopes to replicate the success of the city of Austin’s ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana. 85% of voters helped to pass the ballot initiative in Austin that ended the enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses.
Harker Heights is not the only place trying to decriminalize marijuana in Texas. There are also similar ballot campaigns across other counties and cities in the state with the goal of ending the criminalization of some marijuana activities.