Nashville City lessens penalty for small amount of marijuana
The city of
Nashville became the first in the state of Tennessee to lessen the penalty for
small amounts of marijuana Tuesday night.
In a 35-3 vote, the Metro Council approved the bill that
allows officers to give someone a $50 fine and community service if they
are found with less than a half ounce of marijuana.
This changes the current laws where people charged
with marijuana possession face a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a
However, the new law also allows Metro-Nashville police officers
to use their discretion in a case-by-case basis. If an officer catches someone
with half an ounce or less of pot, they can opt to give them the lesser
penalties under the new law or the misdemeanor charge.
“That does not mean if you come into Davidson County and you
have a half ounce of marijuana or below that you are safe. You get pulled over
by the wrong officer, you can still get handcuffed, you can still go to jail,”
council man Steve Glover told News 2.
“We are sending a very bad message, in my opinion, to the people
of Nashville, saying ‘Hey, it is okay to go do this now.’ It is not okay to go
do it. You can still be arrested. There’s still the same consequences tomorrow
that there were this morning when we got up,” Glover added.
“It is a civil penalty. It doesn’t take away anything that they
have right now, but it also gives the opportunity for people who make mistakes
to go through life without the criminal record hanging over their head,” said
councilman Russ Pulley.
“It gives them the opportunity to deal with a mistake by a young
person or someone else carrying a small amount of marijuana differently than
they do now,” Pulley told News 2.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) said
it applauds the Metro Council’s decision, calling it a “smarter approach to
“For far too long, thousands of Nashvillians —including a
disproportionate number of black residents — have been arrested for possession
of tiny amounts of marijuana.
These arrests have led to disastrous consequences
for their lives, including the loss of job, education and housing
opportunities,” the ACLU-TN added. “This ordinance could significantly reduce
the costly incarceration rate for this low-level violation, freeing law
enforcement to focus on addressing violent crime and keeping our community