Decriminalization In Denton Still Not Implemented

Bag of cannabis Denton
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A battle is brewing in Denton over pot and an ordinance voters overwhelmingly approved in November that is still not being implemented.

Voters approved Proposition B to decriminalize possession of small amounts of weed, with some exceptions.

The city will explain ‘challenges’ in following through with the peoples’ will during a city council work session Tuesday afternoon.

Denton police are still arresting and citing people for low-level marijuana possession, according to a presentation the city manager will be presenting during the session.

“It’s the most popular thing that Dentonites have done and un-elected bureaucrats, who none of us can vote for, are telling us that your democracy, your vote, none of that matters,” said Nick Stevens, member of the group Decriminalize Denton.

Voters approved Prop B which prohibits the arrest or citation for possession of four ounces or less of cannabis, with some exceptions.

It also bans police from using the ‘smell test’ in order to stop and potentially cite and seize pot and restricts city money from being used on THC testing.

A presentation will be presented before a city council work session Tuesday afternoon will lay out reasons the city says implementing the ordinance is challenging.

“There are truths in [the presentation] but they are cobbled together in an intentionally misleading way,” said former city council member and Decriminalize Denton member Deb Armintor. “I’ve called it gaslighting.”

Denton will point to other Texas cities and counties that have or are challenging their own ordinances regarding low-level marijuana possession.

City Manager Sara Hensley’s presentation will detail how the city believes its authority in the matter is limited.

“What’s going on right now is that we have a city-funded propaganda that is being disseminated to 150,000 residents where the city manager and chief of police are raising their hands and saying, ‘We wish we could do something but we can’t,’” argues Stevens.

Texas cities and police departments are ‘prohibited from adopting a policy that does not fully enforce state and federal laws relating to drugs’ and ‘the city manager and chief of police cannot direct otherwise,’ according to the city.

True, says Armintor, but she argues, “This is a very limited law designed to conform to state law. And, the city of Austin where they have an almost identical law are not having any problems enforcing it.”

The presentation will close by reporting that 53 people have been arrested and/or cited for weed possession since the election.

Of 23 arrests, “all 23 were for primary violations other than marijuana possession, such as warrants, criminal trespass, or public intoxication. Citations were issued for the marijuana/paraphernalia violations in all but one of those cases.”

Armintor and Stevens question whether these incidents might have violated the ordinance because they involved non-violent offenses.

“They’re not providing any data such as racial demographics,” added Armintor who worries Black men may still be disproportionately affected.

Hensley will report that Denton PD will ‘continue’ to make low-level marijuana possession enforcement a ‘low priority.’

Armintor and Stevens vow to focus on recalling or calling for the firing of any official who refuses to comply with the will of voters.

“Detonites are strong, resilient people that just don’t lie down. They fight,” he said.

The city council work session begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.

NBC 5 reached out to Denton police and the city.

Representatives from both agencies say they have no comment ahead of tomorrow’s work session presentation.