During the recent election cycle, more than 70% of Denton residents voted in favor of Proposition B, an ordinance that ends arrests and citations for possessing less than 4 ounces of marijuana.
However, city officials have expressed reluctance to abide by the ordinance functionally decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
On November 9, Denton City Manager Sara Hensley issued a memo stating the City would make “marijuana possession a low priority,” recognizing “the statement expressed by voters regarding marijuana enforcement.”
However, she added, “The passage of Proposition B presents a challenge to the City regarding our ability to implement its provisions.”
Hensley said the proposition directly contradicts state and federal law. The State of Texas, for example, prohibits city councils and police departments from adopting rules that prevent them from fully enforcing state and federal drug laws.
In her memo, Hensley said City staff have “been working to determine which portions of the ordinance will be incorporated” into the police department’s policies.
“Because portions of Proposition B conflict with and may be superseded by existing state and federal laws, some provisions of the ordinance may not be implemented without changes to those laws by the United States Congress and Texas Legislature,” she said, adding that the possession of THC products is a felony offense under Texas state law.
She continued, “The police department will continue to assess aspects of this ordinance … to determine what may be implemented in accordance with both the current law as well as the voices of the population we serve.”
During a November 22 meeting, residents urged the city council to instruct the staff to implement the ordinance, but council members declined.
Mayor Gerard Hudspeth said that while the city charter allows residents to petition for a vote, he is prohibited from interfering with the city manager’s directions to the police department.
He added that political uniformity in places like Austin and Travis County made similar ordinances easier to enforce, but the political diversity of Denton is likely to make the proposition more difficult to implement.
As previously covered by The Dallas Express, Austin voters passed Proposition A earlier this year, which is meant to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession. Austin Police Association president Ken Casady, however, said he believes the ordinance “doesn’t really change anything.”
The City of Denton is not entirely ignoring the ordinance, and Hensley has agreed to report on its implementation in a public meeting in three months, as the ordinance requires.
A key force behind getting the ordinance on the ballot was the organization Decriminalize Denton, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Board member Nick Stevens said that by not enforcing this proposition, the City of Denton is opting to “overthrow an election.”