District attorney won't prosecute for less than half an ounce of marijuana

Posted at 9:22 PM, Nov 12, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the first time ever, no arrests will be made and no one jailed for simple drug crimes.

Marijuana remains illegal in Tennessee. But Nashville is the only city in the state where a bold move to decriminalize pot is now making a big difference.

Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk said it was a common sense, fair thing to do. In July, he said he would no longer prosecute for simple possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana.

Despite the fact it is illegal in the state, marijuana is still widely used every single day by thousands in the state. No doubt Metro police see it and smell it but if it's just a few joints they no longer confiscate it. And, there's no point in arresting someone if they won't be prosecuted.

"I have not seen any charges at all for simple possession in Nashville," said Kevin Teets.

Teets is a local defense attorney who handles some marijuana cases and business for him in the city has slowed, but Nashville is something of an island.

"You go any direction outside of Davidson County and you are still seeing prosecution that can be from somebody being jailed up to a year of probation," said Teets.

But that may soon change as others see the impact of General Funk's decision not prosecute for simple possession.

In the five months since the policy took effect, no prosecutions mean the jail is no longer housing any inmates for simple possession. That saves money and frees up resources especially important during the pandemic. It also eliminates costly litigation.

Anyone now arrested with marijuana can say police did not have probable cause. Why? Because without expensive testing there is no way for them or K-9s to tell the difference between illegal marijuana and legal hemp.

In one such case, a Davidson County judge wrote he has "serious concerns about the reliability of canine units in Tennessee."

Against this backdrop of not prosecuting for simple possession, there have been no reports of a spike in drug crimes or driving under the influence in Nashville.

And, indications are the policy is saving the city money. Whether decriminalizing pot happens elsewhere in the state remains to be seen.