The City of Nashville moved one step closer today to decriminalizing marijuana possession. The Metro Council took a voice vote, and advanced a measure that would give cops the flexibility to cite someone for personal marijuana possession rather than arrest them. It’s the second of three steps to get the measure passed. A number of cities in America have taken similar steps, even though marijuana possession remained a criminal offense in the states those cities are located in. Currently in Tennessee possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $250 fine.
The favorable vote came after an endorsement by the ACLU of Tennessee, and a ‘neutral’ stance from the Nashville police force. The Nashville Police force was originally opposed to the measure, but changed its stance to ‘neutral’ after some revisions were made to the proposal. The original proposal made it mandatory that if someone was caught with a personal amount of marijuana (14 grams) that they would receive a fine of $50 or 10 hours of community service. Language was changed in the measure that left the decision to impose a fine or community service, rather than make an arrest, up to the investigating officer’s discretion.
One area of concern that local law enforcement still had with the measure was the possession limit, which they felt was too much. Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson had the following to say, per The Tennessean:
“Those persons who do have experience with marijuana will understand that one-half ounce can produce a significant number of ‘joints’ or marijuana-type cigarettes,” Anderson wrote. ”This amount of the drug has the ability to produce a high level of intoxication multiple times to many persons.”
Anderson said he recommends that the “small amount” limit on the local legislation be reduced to 1/32 of an ounce, or approximately one to two “joints” — and “certainly no more than one-sixteenth of an ounce.”
According to Chief Anderson, 50 joints can be rolled from 14 grams of marijuana. That works out to joints that weigh .28 grams. Does anyone in America honestly make that many joints out of a half ounce of marijuana? Those joints would be pinners all the way. That’s an unrealistic figure, but one that I expect opponents to use a lot moving forward. As I discussed in an article I wrote for Green Flower Media, marijuana opponents are going to be using the ‘these many joints in an ounce’ strategy a lot this election season, and try to make that number as large as possible. It’s a way to magnify the amount of marijuana a person can possess. Hopefully voters see through that garbage.
Fortunately it sounds like the Metro Council was unswayed and passed the measure, albeit not in its original version. Without decriminalization being uniformly applied, enforcement will likely be disproportionate in an unfavorable way towards people of color and/or people that are poor. Still, this is a big step. Hopefully Nashville can get this approved, and then improve upon it as quickly as possible. If you live in Nashville, you can find contact info for your Metro Council member at this link here.