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LUBBOCK — An initiative to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana hit a roadblock Tuesday when city leaders unanimously voted to reject the proposed ordinance.
Instead, supporters of the issue will seek voter approval next year.
Lubbock Compact, the local advocacy group behind the proposal, spent two months collecting more than 10,000 signatures from Lubbock voters — more than double the 4,800 needed to put the issue in front of the council.
Mayor Tray Payne applauded the group’s efforts but said the proposal contradicts state law and was “void and unenforceable.”
“I do not think it’s appropriate that we try to contradict state law in this manner,” Payne said. “Until and unless amendments are made by the Legislature, the city of Lubbock is curtailed by current state laws on the issue.”
Texas is one of 26 states that has not legalized recreational marijuana. The state also has one of the most narrow medicinal programs. According to the Department of Public Safety, about 69,000 Texans are enlisted. Texas lawmakers have long drawn the line when it comes to legalizing recreational use or lowering penalties for possession, and local officials have largely followed suit.
Residents in Denton, Killeen, Elgin, San Marcos and Harker Heights all approved ballot measures banning arrests and citations for carrying less than four ounces of marijuana in most instances. However, the local city councils have declined to put the voter-approved rules in place. And Bell County, which includes Killeen, has sued to block the change from going into effect.
With more than 264,000 residents, Lubbock would be the largest to decriminalize marijuana with a residential vote.
Supporters of the proposed ordinance aren’t upset that the council rejected their efforts. In fact, they had hoped they’d do so all along. Adam Hernandez, communications chair for Lubbock Compact, advocated for the council to leave it up to a vote during the public comments.
The issue is too important to rest on seven people, he said.
“It’s not fair to either side — the council or the citizens — so our position was that it should go to a vote,” Hernandez told the Tribune after the meeting. “We just needed them to vote it down so it would be put on the ballot.”
Hernandez added, “That’s what they chose to do, not necessarily for those reasons, but we’re good with that.”
Hernandez said the group will now work on registering people in the community to vote and encouraging voters to show up at the polls.
The ordinance will be on the ballot in May.