State Lawmaker Hopes To Reform Tennessee Drug-Free Zone Laws

Posted at 10:02 PM, Aug 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 23:37:17-04

For the past two decades it's been set in stone: commit a drug crime near a drug-free school zone, and face bigger consequences, but one lawmaker has pushed to make those drug-free zones smaller.

In Tennessee, a drug-free zone is anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school, library, day care, recreation center or park. In Nashville, Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said that can be pretty much anywhere.

She said she's seen first time drug offenders get sentenced to as many as 18 years behind bars as a result of possessing 18 pills in a drug-free zone.

That’s a punishment that Gilmore said can be too harsh.

She's started pushing for a new state law to make those drug-free zones smaller, or reduce the enhanced penalties for drug-free zone crimes. She said she wants to remain tough on crime, but the zones unfairly target populated cities where things like parks and schools are closer together than in rural towns.

“We don’t want anyone to sell drugs, or use drugs in that 1,000 feet, but we want to make sure when we arrest someone, regardless of where you live and who you are, you get the same time for the same crime,” Gilmore said.

Tennessee's Drug Free School Zone act was passed into law in 1995.