Denton Discusses Decriminalizing Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession But No Vote Set

Conversation lasts more than an hour but no vote is set

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Denton city leaders on Tuesday discussed decriminalizing misdemeanor possession of marijuana but only two council members appeared ready to move forward with the idea.

Already, Denton's policy on marijuana enforcement is relaxed compared to many cities.

People who get caught with a personal amount of marijuana by a Denton police officer will likely get a citation similar to a speeding ticket.

There’s no trip to jail.

And for offenders who go through the court process, their records could be wiped clean by paying a fine or performing community service.

But one city council member, Deb Armintor, wants to take it a step farther, stopping police from even issuing a citation.

"Cannabis is harmless," Armintor said. "There are legal drugs that are much more harmful than cannabis and cannabis laws are sometimes what's called the new Jim Crow. They are selectively enforced."

Armintor convinced other council members to talk about the idea.

The conversation went on for more than an hour.

Mayor Gerard Hudspeth made it clear he is against any changes.

He said he swore to uphold state law.

"So I can't in good faith ask for a resolution to violate my oath of office so I can't support it for that reason either,” Hudspeth said.

Leaders of the fight to legalize marijuana say more cities are relaxing enforcement policies, but they add, that creates new problems without statewide legalization.

"It creates a patchwork and that can be very confusing for people,” said Jax James, Texas executive director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or NORML. “What you might go through a first-chance program for in Houston or a diversionary program up in Denton, you'd be arrested for in Amarillo."

For now, more cities are writing their own rules.

And the question has become how much change is too much.

Armintor said she was disappointed not more council members supported the idea in Tuesday's meeting but added the fight continues.

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