A non-partisan group in Denton is pushing to decriminalize marijuana in the city, according to reports on NBC 5 News. Decriminalize Denton, a grassroots organization, is putting pressure on leaders to do away with the city’s comparatively relaxed law.
In Denton, people caught with a ‘personal amount’ of marijuana — not more than 2 ounces — mostly get citations. However, Decriminalize Denton, headed by Executive Director and co-founder Tristan Seikel, seeks the citation’s removal.
“The worst you would encounter from a law officer — if you’re not committing a high commercial trafficking case or committing a violent felony — would be a simple confiscation of marijuana, and the police officer would be required to write a written report, but that would be the extent of it. There would be no citation,” Seikel told NBC 5 in an April 29 report.
Nick Stevens, a Denton resident and the group’s associate director, told NBC 5 that the group went to various locations — including churches, bars, restaurants, and polling locations — seeking support for a petition to get the issue on the city’s November general election ballot.
The organization announced on Twitter on April 21 that it had successfully gathered and verified enough signatures, more than the minimum required number of 1,745, to qualify for the November election. The group submitted some 3,000 signatures to the Denton city clerk on May 4.
“Once our ordinance is on the ballot, we do feel confident that the majority of Dentonites will vote in favor of it, as we’ve already had a substantial amount of voters in the city sign on to our petition,” he said. “However, we plan to do extensive outreach and educational engagement with our community across the summer and fall to help get out the vote.”
However, Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth said he is concerned that there might be confusion if the group gets its way. As the ordinance is written now, he told The Dallas Express, it is not clear how it would be enforced between different law enforcement agencies.
Hudspeth explained that multiple bodies of law enforcement have the authority to effect an arrest within Denton, as in any city, and it is unclear how the city ordinance would apply to peace officers from each agency.
“So you have an innumerable amount of other law enforcement that could add to the confusion if someone thought they could operate in Denton with 2 ounces or less of marijuana or cannabis,” he said to The Dallas Express. “You have different agencies operating under different guidelines policing the same populace, and that is a conflict point, a point of confusion.”
Still, Hudspeth told NBC he would respect the people’s will if they voted to decriminalize marijuana.
Decriminalization means that possessing marijuana would still be considered illegal, but the criminal penalties would be removed. There could still be some minor consequences for people found in possession of marijuana, such as fines or confiscation.
Legalization, on the other hand, means marijuana possession would be entirely acceptable in the eyes of the law and not subject to any penalties. Legalizing marijuana can only take place at the state or federal level.