Despite the movement of cities across Tennessee to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, these efforts will be effectively blocked due to the legislature recently passing a bill that blocks these measures. The only step that remains is for the governor to sign the bill.
Recently, Nashville and Memphis had passed city ordinances that gave police officers the discretion to write civil citations for individuals who were found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana. Nashville's ordinance gave police the discretion to reduce the penalty for people found in possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana a fine of $50 or ten hours of community service. This discretion follows the lead of many other cities and towns throughout the country in an effort to move past the stigma of treating marijuana as a serious drug.
After Nashville and Memphis passed their new decriminalization statutes, the state attorney general issued an official decision that these ordinances would not be valid under state law because they would be in direct conflict with state law.
There was impassioned debate on both sides of the table. One democratic senator argued that voting for the law would cause more people to wind up behind bars for nonviolent offenses. He argued that the law would cause individuals to be locked up with sentences that were not proportionate to the crime that they committed, which would ultimately lead to difficulties in them finding employment due to the offense. Another democrat argued that the bill sought to invade local control by usurping the cities' ordinances by making a statewide prohibition on the passage of the ordinances that sought to decriminalize the offense. a democratic senator echoed this concern, saying that the bill would provide a slippery slope of telling other cities what to do. A republican senator responded by saying that the laws in the state needed to be uniformly enforced. Another republican senator said that marijuana abuse is a major issue in the state.
Ultimately, the state legislature passed the bill. It now only awaits the governor's signature before becoming law. If the governor signs the bill into law, the existing rules in Nashville and Memphis will no longer be valid, potentially subjecting criminal defendants to harsher penalties including possible jail time for the possession of a small amount of marijuana.
If you have questions about marijuana possession or other drug crimes, our Murfreesboro drug crime defense attorneys at Dotson & Taylor put more than 40 years of combined criminal defense experience to use in every case. Schedule a free consultation by calling us at 615-890-1982 or contact us online.