The American Civil Civil Liberties Union is throwing its political and activism muscle behind decriminalizing personal amounts of cannabis in Nashville, Tennessee. This story hits home for me because I have long been a fan of the ACLU and served as president of the law school chapter at the University of Missouri-Columbia, when I co-authored measures that reformed cannabis laws in Columbia, Missouri in 2004.
From The Tennessean:
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, in a letter Thursday to Metro Council members, urged support for Nashville’s pending decriminalization ordinance, which is up for a key second of three votes in the Metro Council on Tuesday.
She argued the measure would help cut down incarceration rates of “low-level” offenders who have pushed Tennessee’s prison population to grown more than twice as fast as the state’s population over the past 15 years.
“Dangerous offenders belong behind bars,” Weinberg’s letter reads. “But many of the individuals in our jails and prisons are not there for violent crimes. By imposing a civil penalty — rather than a criminal one — for possession of half an ounce of marijuana or less, the ordinance would reduce the costly incarceration rate for this low-level, nonviolent violation as well as the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.”
Local decriminalization measures are very important for a wide variety of reasons. Most importantly, treating cannabis as a civil infraction, instead of a criminal offense, can keep some people out of prison and protect employment and educational opportunities. Even those that don’t use cannabis benefit because law enforcement priorities and saving tax dollars. Additionally, local political victories provide a foundation to push for broader statewide reform.
Good luck to cannabis law reform activists in Nashville! We’ll definitely be following your progress here at Weed News.