Black Caucus backs marijuana decriminalization

News release from TN Black Caucus of State Legislators
NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) is announcing its support for efforts in the state’s two largest cities to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Metro Council in Nashville has passed on first reading a new ordinance that would lessen the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil penalty or 10 hours of community service. Last week, the Memphis City Council passed a similar ordinance out of its Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and it is scheduled to be considered by the full Council in September.

TBCSL Chair Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said the efforts of these cities go hand-in-hand with Caucus efforts to target criminal justice reform across the state.

“We have made criminal justice reform a caucus priority and this is a perfect example of the kind of issue that needs to be discussed”, Rep. Gilmore said.

In separate letters to the leaders of both councils, Chairlady Gilmore states:

“Statistics have shown that the impact of these low level drug offences hits harder on poor and minority communities, saddling many with crippling criminal records and lessening their chances of employment, housing and other areas of life. Costs to locals, states and municipalities are burdensome, law enforcement has less time to focus on more serious offences, and courts are bogged down with the handling of minor infractions.”

The letter also stressed that the Black Caucus focus is on decriminalization, not making marijuana legal. During the last legislative session, Caucus members introduced legislation to lessen penalties across the state for small amounts of marijuana possession and Gilmore promised the caucus would continue to fight for ways to ease the burden on underserved communities.