An ordinance in Nashville has been seeking to reduce the penalty for people caught possessing or exchanging small amounts of marijuana.
According to reports, people 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.
“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.
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.
“The police officer is pulled off the street for up to six hours. There’s the arrest, there’s booking, appearing in court, and all the paperwork and other stuff in between,” Rosenberg said.
"We’re showing that it [cannabis] is 114 times safer than alcohol. These law makers have to ask themselves, can they simply justify arresting and incarcerating people for a substance that is 114 times safer than what we’re now selling in grocery stores in the state of Tennessee,” said Cecily Friday Shamim, the founder of the Tennessee Cannabis Coalition.
Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said the police department has opposed the law because the ordinance's language removes discretion from officers.