The Metro Nashville City Council voted to approve a controversial marijuana bill that will lessen the consequences for people caught possessing or exchanging small amounts of marijuana.
Those who possess or exchange a half-ounce of marijuana would face a civil penalty of $50 under the new ordinance. A court could also choose to suspend the civil penalty and order ten hours of community service.
Under the current state law, people who commit the offense have faced a fine of $2,500 and a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year behind bars.
“We’re not decriminalizing. We’re not removing state law that makes it a criminal offense. It’s just another option and what the legislature decides to do in the future and we’ll see,” said District 35 Councilmember Dave Rosenberg.
The ordinance passed 35-3 in Tuesday's council meeting.
— Matthew Torres (@NC5_MTorres) September 21, 2016
Councilman Glover did not support the bill because he said it sends mixed messages.
"We're sending conflicting info to the city," said Glover.
Mayor Megan Barry released the following statement after the vote.
"This legislation is a positive step forward in addressing the overly punitive treatment of marijuana possession in our state that disproportionately impacts low-income and minority residents. “It is important to stress that this ordinance is not a license to sell, possess, or use marijuana in Nashville. When this ordinance becomes law, police officers will still have the ability to make arrests or issue state criminal citations for marijuana possession as circumstances warrant, which is a Class A misdemeanor under state law.”
Lindsay Kee the ACLU-TN communications director also released a statement.
“ACLU-TN applauds the members of Metro Council who voted for a smarter approach to marijuana possession. 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. 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 safer.”