News for North Texas

Voters will soon decide whether Denton's future includes decriminalizing marijuana

Denton residents will be voting in the Nov. 8 election on a proposed ordinance that would decriminalize marijuana. Early voting begins in October.
Ted S. Warren

Denton residents will soon begin voting on a ballot proposition to decriminalize marijuana. Voters in several other Texas cities will be weighing in on similar proposals.

If the ballot proposition passes in November, Denton would eliminate arrests and penalties for misdemeanor marijuana possession. And Denton police officers who smell marijuana would not be able to use that as probable cause for a search.

Deb Armintor, is with Decriminalize Denton. The nonprofit group supports the proposed “Ordinance to Eliminate Low-Level Marijuana Enforcement.”

The former Denton city council member says many people who've been arrested for marijuana have suffered. And she says that has affected a disproportionate number of black residents in Denton.

“We would be a healthier city,” Armintor said. “It would mean fewer people in jail…. We would save money,” she said.

Other proponents have suggested that decriminalizing marijuana would enable law enforcement agencies to focus more on serious criminal offenses.

Armintor said she believes that Marijuana is safer than many over-the-counter drugs and is becoming more acceptable in communities across America.

“This is the way the nation is heading…. It’s even the way Texas is heading,” she said. “And we as a home-rule city have the authority to make decisions about police enforcement priorities.”

Critics of decriminalizing marijuana raise concerns about potential health consequences and and say that it would create a more permissive attitude toward drug use. And they claim that decriminalizing marijuana would lead more car accidents because of impaired drivers.

Voters in Austin voted to decriminalize marijuana in May. Other cities have similar proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot, including Killeen, San Marcos, Harker Heights and Elgin.

Decriminalize Denton supporters rallied outside of the county courthouse Saturday.

Early voting begins in October and the election is Nov. 8.

Got a tip? Email Mya Nicholson at  mnicholson@kera.org.

Mya Nicholson reports for KERA's government accountability team. She studies broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas.

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Mya Nicholson reports for KERA News as an intern assigned to KERA's government accountability team. She studies broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas.