Good herb and good music go hand in hand. But Music City, USA a.k.a. Nashville, Tennessee hasn’t always agreed. However, that all might change. A new proposed measure has earned the initial seal of approval from the Nashville city council this week. The goal: decriminalization.
Taking away criminal penalties
In the measure, possession or casual exchange of up to 1/2 ounce of cannabis would face a $50 fine rather than arrest and jail time. That fine could also be paid with 10 hours community service instead.
Metro Councilman Dave Rosenberg spoke to local news, saying,
A criminal record for a simple mistake is something that follows people around for a long time, and makes it more difficult for them to get a job, earn a living and go about their lives.
The battle wages on
Not everyone is pleased with the measure, though it garnered majority approval from the council. Attorney Doak Patton, who also acts as President of Tennessee NORML, told High Times,
…There is resistance from some of the older councilmen.
Indeed, four of them voted against the proposal on Tuesday, citing concerns that Metro Nashville Police didn’t have enough say in the decision. Sure, it would free up police resources, but as department spokesperson, Don Aaron told The Tennessean,
There may be circumstances where an officer needs to keep something in the criminal realm.
In other words, officers want the measure reworded to allow them “discretion” on when to not arrest, rather than full decriminalization. But in a notoriously race-segregated city, that could serve to only further increase the disparity in minority arrests for marijuana.
Support from the top
If and when lawmakers and law enforcement come to an agreement, the measure looks to make the books.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry shows support, and her press secretary released the statement,
[Mayor Barry] is still reviewing the proposed ordinance and its implications but is generally supportive of efforts to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and looks forward to hearing more about this specific proposal.
What’s next for Nashville?
The new ordinance faces the council committee for further consideration. Patton said:
Now is the time we need all Nashville to contact their members and let them know how they feel. I promise you the lobbyist from private prisons has already done this.
Proposed ordinance changes in Nashville have a good track record of passing on a first reading, but with the history of police opposition for similar attempts, it could be anyone’s game.
Will Nashville finally succeed? Do you think legalization will spread to Tennessee? Tell us on social media or in the comments below.