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Marijuana decriminalization in Denton: Why the city still won't enforce an ordinance passed by residents

Back in November, voters in Denton passed an ordinance to decriminalize low-level marijuana offenses. Today, it's still not being enforced.

DENTON, Texas — Voters approved a measure to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession in Denton. But, seven months later, the city hasn’t enforced it -- and likely won’t any time soon.

Here’s why.

In November, more than 70% of Denton voters passed "Proposition B," which was supposed to end citations and arrests for possessions four ounces or less, ban using smell as probable cause and ban paying for testing substances for THC.

But shortly after the proposition passed, the City Manager Sara Hensley argued it conflicted with state law, and said she could not direct the chief of police to enforce the new ordinance.

On Tuesday night, in a long and packed city council meeting, council members heard from residents who want the ordinance enforced.

They argued decriminalization does not conflict with state law and that it was already passed by voters in Denton anyway. They also argued without enforcement the city will disproportionately target people of color over low-level marijuana offenses.

On the other side of that coin, council heard from residents who believe the city ordinance does violate state law. Most of those people were Denton police officers who also told the council they believe marijuana-related searches and arrests often lead them to discover violent crimes.

The council ultimately voted 4-3 not to adopt the already existing ordinance, which essentially means nothing changes.

The ordinance to decriminalize low-level possessions stays on the books in Denton, and the city manager and chief will likely not enforce it, arguing it still violates state law.

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