Advocates in Denton, Texas are conducting a petition drive to decriminalize cannabis in the city, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. The effort is being led by Decriminalize Denton and other groups who are gathering signatures in support of ending citations and arrests for misdemeanor possession.
The campaign’s goal is to get a city ordinance ending the enforcement of low-level cannabis offenses on the November ballot.
Tristan Seikel, a co-founder and organizer for Decriminalize Denton, told the Star-Telegram that it is “really important that Denton keeps pace to where our nation is headed, and that is a more inclusive and equitable approach to cannabis use.”
“This is a huge criminal justice issue, because when you think about it, who are going to be disproportionately targeted by existing cannabis laws in Texas? It’s people who don’t have a safe space to consume, people who don’t have housing or good connection to do that in a safe way.” – Seikel to the Star-Telegram
The proposal states that Denton officers “shall not issue citations or make arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses.” Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $4,000 or both while Class B misdemeanors could be met with up to 180 days in jail or a fine of up to $2,000 or both. The measure would also prohibit Denton from using city funds or personnel for THC concentration testing of seized cannabis products and prohibit the city from using the odor of cannabis or hemp as probable cause for search or seizure.
The Denton Police Department did not comment to the Star-Telegram on the petition but outlined its policy for handling cannabis cases, which is to generally issue citations in lieu of arrest when a person is accused of possessing two ounces or less and an officer doesn’t believe another crime has occurred, the policy states. When establishing probable cause to make a cannabis-related arrest, under current department policy, officers cannot use the smell of cannabis alone, and only approved cases are sent for testing, according to the document outlined by the Star-Telegram.
The campaign comes following a successful bid in Austin that will culminate in May when residents will vote on a referendum that would end the enforcement of low-level cannabis offenses and no-knock raids by law enforcement in the city.
Similar campaigns are happening in cities across the Lonestar State with the collaboration of Ground Game Texas, including in Killeen and San Marcos.
The campaign needs 1,745 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot but told the Star-Telegram that the group’s goal is 3,000 signatures.
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