Last month the City of Nashville voted to give officers the option to issue someone a citation for possession up to a half ounce of marijuana. Officers would still be able to arrest a person and enforce state law (misdemeanor), but they wouldn’t be forced to. And of course, cops could always pursue the third and more logical option – let the person go. It’s a quasi-form of decriminalization that is significant in the State of Tennessee because after all, it’s Tennessee.
The Memphis City Council took up a vote on a similar measure today, and passed the marijuana decriminalization proposal. Per News Channel 3:
The ordinance to lessen the punishments for small amounts of marijuana in Memphis has passed, 7 votes to 6.
Now police officers will have a choice when it comes to punishing people caught with a small amount of marijuana on them.
It’s an ordinance that didn’t burn out, and one Councilman Berlin Boyd said is a step in the right direction.
“We have to change the dynamics and we have to be intentional about what we do,” he said.
As with Nashville, it will take some time to see how the decriminalization measure will work out once implemented. Specifically, what will enforcement rates look like? Will more tickets be handed out in richer neighborhoods versus poorer ones? Will enforcement be racially biased? Those are problems that make this particular form of decriminalization potentially limited in its effect. This measure passed by a razor thin margin. The Nashville measure passed with overwhelming support.
In Nashville there has already been talk about introducing a measure that would help ensure equal enforcement of decriminalization and track a bunch of stuff. But at that point, why wouldn’t full decriminalization be implemented to just be done with the subjective decision making process by the officer? Why should an officer ever have the option to handcuff someone and throw them into a restricted space just because they possess a plant that is safer than alcohol and many household items?
This is a good step in the right direction thought. I haven’t heard anything from the State of Tennessee as to if they are going to try to intervene with these local decriminalization reforms. That happened in Kansas after the City of Wichita voted to decriminalize. Hopefully Tennessee state leaders realize that this is a good thing, and bring it to the state level!