After over six months since Denton voters approved a proposition to decriminalize certain low-level marijuana possession cases, the Denton City Council has decided against implementing the initiative.
The council voted 4-3 against adopting the ordinance in a tense meeting on Tuesday. This comes despite over 70 percent of Denton voters supporting “Proposition B” in November, which intended to prevent police from making arrests or issuing tickets for possession of four ounces of marijuana or less, along with banning the use of smell as a probable cause for search and seizure.
Furthermore, the proposition intended to prohibit the use of city funds for testing substances for THC. The ordinance remains on the books due to the will of the voters, but the enforcement of these measures remains a contentious issue.
City Manager Sara Hensley previously argued that the proposition conflicted with state law and therefore she could not direct the chief of police to enforce the new ordinance. This reasoning was echoed by other city staff and leaders, sparking heated debates over the legality and viability of the measures in recent months.
Over thirty residents voiced their opinions during the two-hour debate, including individuals in favor of the ordinance and members of law enforcement. Many Denton police officers argue that the ordinance impedes their ability to effectively perform their duties, stating that marijuana-related searches often lead to the discovery of violent crimes and illegal firearms.
On the contrary, proponents of marijuana decriminalization argued that it has valid and therapeutic applications for various clinical conditions and the stresses of modern life. They contend that without the enforcement of Proposition B, the city could disproportionately target people of color over low-level marijuana offenses.
Despite the vote against the adoption of the ordinance, city council members and the Mayor maintain that police officers retain the discretion to choose not to cite or arrest for marijuana possession. Nevertheless, advocates for marijuana decriminalization continue to call for stronger guarantees against prosecution.
While the ordinance remains on the books at the will of Denton voters, the enforcement of these measures by the city and police remains unclear. City leaders, residents, and law enforcement continue to grapple with the implications of decriminalization and the will of the people.