North Texas city council votes to place marijuana decriminalization on November ballot

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 2:05 PM CDT
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DENTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — The Denton city council voted on Tuesday, July 19 to put an initiative to decriminalize marijuana on the ballot this November.

The move comes after months of campaigning by Ground Game Texas, a progressive voter engagement and mobilization organization, and Decriminalize Denton. In May, the two groups submitted a petition with nearly 3,000 to place the initiative on the ballot to the council.

Decriminalization policies differ city by city, but generally it means that police departments will no longer enforce misdemeanor marijuana offenses. It does not allow or expand the ability of citizens to legally purchase or sell marijuana for any reason, and existing drug laws at the state and federal level can still be enforced by their respective drug enforcement agencies.

Several other Texas cities will vote to decriminalize marijuana this November as well, with Austin being the largest among them. A similar campaign run by Ground Game Texas in the state’s capitol managed to get over 30,000 signatures. That initiative would also prohibit the Austin Police Department from conducting no-knock raids.

Civil rights organizations across the country, including several in North Texas, say that existing drug laws disproportionately target people of color and have voiced support for decriminalizing marijuana.

Earlier this year, Collin County NAACP president June Jenkins called for decriminalization or legalization of marijuana after data compiled by Texas NORML found that even though total arrests for possession dropped by 400 between 2020 and 2021, the percentage of Black people arrested increased by 5.9% and Hispanic people by 2.5%.

Some political conservatives have also called for relaxing marijuana laws in Texas. Last week, Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller published an op-ed in which he stated he believes “that cannabis prohibition came from a place of fear, not from medical science or the analysis of social harm.”

While Miller did not expressly endorse or reject decriminalization or legalization efforts, he said he supports expanding the use of medical marijuana in Texas and that his “goal next year [is] to expand access to the compassionate use of cannabis products in Texas so that every Texan with a medical need has access to these medicines.”

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