Photo courtesy of Flickr
Story by Andrew Wigdor / Assistant News Editor and Brinley Hineman / Co-News Editor
Nashville became the first city in Tennessee to lessen the penalty for small amounts of marijuana Tuesday night.
The Metro Council approved a bill that allows officers to fine someone $50 with community service if they are in possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana.
If the new ordinance is used by police, the owner of the marijuana does not have to face any criminal charges. Instead, the citizens caught with small amounts of marijuana receive a civil citation, similar to littering or code violations in place today. Previously, individuals charged with marijuana possession faced a misdemeanor with up to a year of jail time and a $2,500 fine.
The bill passed with a vote of 35-3 and is on it’s way to Mayor Megan Barry for approval.
Barry stated in a press release Tuesday evening, “This legislation is a positive step forward in addressing the overly punitive treatment of marijuana possession in our state that disproportionately impacts low-income and minority residents.”
The lead sponsor of BL2016-378, Councilman Dave Rosenberg, took a similar stance when addressing the concerns aimed towards the bill.
He stated, “My hope is that people will use this bill as a tool to help citizens who would otherwise not have a criminal record, to continue with their lives without the burden of that offense.”
In addition to Rosenberg, Councilman Russ Pulley explained that his full support was behind the bill and that he spoke on the floor of the council during the final reading.
“This bill leads us down a path of discussing the eventual legalization of marijuana in Tennessee,” Pulley stated.
Some have questioned the legality of the bill due to its connection to marijuana decriminalization and current state law.
Pulley clarified the bill’s validity, stating, “There has been some discussion from state legislators about if this bill violates state law. That is nothing more than false comments by grandstanding politicians who are pandering to their constituents.”