Tag Archives: marijuana

Nashville council approves pot ordinance 35-3

Nashville on Tuesday became the first city in Tennessee to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and Memphis likely will become the second in two weeks. according to the Commercial Appeal.

The Nashville Metropolitan Council voted 35-3 on final reading Tuesday night to allow police officers to either issue a civil citation punishable by a $50 fine or community service, or charge someone under the state’s criminal law, for possession of a half-ounce or less or marijuana. Under state law, violators are charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

Earlier in the day, members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators arrived in Memphis to campaign around the city and at City Council for a similar ordinance that received the second of three readings Tuesday before a final vote as early as Oct. 4. The ordinance is sponsored by council member Berlin Boyd.

Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, said the caucus she presides over as chairwoman feels the criminal justice system across the state “has gotten out of whack.” The caucus isn’t advocating for legalizing marijuana, she emphasized, but is instead offering a second chance for low-income violators to avoid a cycle of a criminal justice system they perceive as discriminatory to African-Americans.

State Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, said criminal records for African-Americans associated with small amounts of marijuana thwart the future of a minority middle class.

“In the city of Memphis one of the things we lack is an African-American middle class,” Harris said, later adding: “This is a cycle that we’ve got try to get out of if we’re going to create an African-American middle class.”

AP story on Nashville, Memphis marijuana ordinances

By Adrian Sainz, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Political leaders in Tennessee’s two largest cities are taking steps toward marijuana decriminalization with ordinances that would allow police to reduce the penalty for people who possess small amounts of it.

Nashville’s Metropolitan Council is set to take a final vote on its ordinance on Tuesday, while the Memphis City Council is scheduled to make its decision Oct. 4.

Both cities have similar proposals on the table: Police who encounter people in possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana have the discretion of giving them a civil citation for a $50 fine or community service.

Such a penalty is in stark contrast to Tennessee law, which calls for people caught with a half-ounce of marijuana or less to face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Continue reading

Memphis, Nashville could pay penalty for pot decriminalization

If the Nashville and Memphis city councils move ahead with plans for modified marijuana decriminalization, state Rep. William Lamberth says he may move to stop sending state highway funding to the cities.

From The Tennessean:

Lamberth, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said his potential bill would seek to halt state highway funds from cities that do not enforce criminal penalties outlined in state law. Funding would continue again if a violating city overturns their policy. This past year, the state set aside $129.1 million in highway funds for Shelby County and $119.5 million for Davidson County.

“That’s not a bill that I would want to file, but it’s a bill that I’m certainly willing to file if Nashville and Memphis continue down this extraordinarily reckless and unjust path,” he said. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Haslam ‘not a fan’ of decriminalizing marijuana

Gov. Bill Haslam says he doesn’t like the idea of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, as proposed in pending Nashville and Memphis city ordinances, reports WATN-TV in Memphis.

“I’m not a fan,” he says. “While I do think we’ve had some people who have spent more time in jail than they need to for that. I’m not in favor of decriminalizing that.”

…”I think we have enough of an issue around substance abuse now,” he said. “You can debate whether it’s a gateway drug and all this. I’m not the expert. But I just don’t think its a helpful step for our society given the struggles we have right now with substance abuse.”

Nobody is talking about making it legal. It would still be against the law to be carrying around half an ounce of marijuana, only if decriminalized, you wouldn’t go to jail, you’d pay a fine. The Memphis City Council is scheduled to give the decriminalization plan the first of three readings on Tuesday, September 6th.

Proposed Nashville ordinance reduces pot penalties

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An ordinance (proposed) in Nashville seeks to reduce the penalty for people caught possessing or exchanging small amounts of marijuana.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/2aBZ0QF ) reports that under the new ordinance, people who possess or exchange a half-ounce of marijuana or less would face a civil penalty of $50. A court could also choose to suspend the civil penalty and order 10 hours of community service. Current state law calls for a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year behind bars and a $2,500 fine.

Metro Councilman Dave Rosenberg said the current law is time-consuming for police since they have to arrest people over a marijuana misdemeanor. He also called the current state law unproductive and “needlessly expensive.” Continue reading

Senate kills referendum on decriminalizing marijuana

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill that would have allowed Tennesseans to weigh in on whether to decriminalize possession of low-level amounts of marijuana has failed in the Legislature.

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed the proposal on Tuesday.

The measure (SB2321), which was sponsored by Memphis Democrats Antonio Parkinson and Sara Kyle, would not have legalized marijuana possession. Instead, it would have allowed voters to make their opinion known on whether police should arrest people in possession of one ounce of marijuana or less or give them a warning instead.

The proposal would have allowed Metro governments or municipalities with their own police departments to put the question on whether to arrest or warn to voters during a normal election. The results of the election would be advisory only.

Bill reducing marijuana penalties clears committee

A Republican-sponsored bill that would make three or more convictions for simple possession or casual exchange of marijuana a misdemeanor rather than a felony passed a key hurdle on Tuesday, reports The Tennessean.

With a unanimous 9-0 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill (SB1572) that would make changes to the prosecution of those found guilty of possessing marijuana and other controlled substances three or more times.

The move is expected to decrease the state’s incarceration costs by as much as $2 million, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

The change comes as part of a package deal. The heart of the bill was actually centered on enhancing the state’s DUIs laws.

Current law hands out a Class E felony to any person with four of more DUI convictions. The bill would alter the state’s law and give a Class C felony to anyone with six or more DUI convictions.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, Tennessee annually averages about 456 convictions for four or more DUIs. If the changes proposed in the bill were implemented, the state’s correction system would increase by 61 people, including estimates for population growth.

Factoring in recidivism rates, the fiscal note found that the state could reasonably expect 34 additional offenders, which would cost $1.6 million, to enter Tennessee’s correctional system each year as a result of the DUI changes.

With that in mind, the bill’s sponsors — Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown — amended it to include the changes to the state’s prosecution of offenses involving the possession of controlled substances.

Passage of the bill would actually result in a $342,600 decrease in incarcerations, according to the fiscal note.

“In order to reduce the fiscal effects of the bill it does reduce the simple possession or casual exchange of a controlled substance,” McNally said while introducing the bill.

Simple possession is when someone has an illegal substance and they don’t possess it for delivery or sale, said Brent Cooper, District Attorney General for the 22nd Judicial District.

Ramsey: Insure TN, medical marijuana bills DOA

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey tells the Kingsport Times-News that bills on Insure Tennessee and medical marijuana don’t have a chance of passage this session.

“This is 2016 and we’re going to have a new president in November one way or the other,” Ramsey said in a recent meeting with members of the Times-News Editorial Board. “Every Republican presidential nominee has basically said that we will give the money to the states in block grants and allow us to design our own (Medicaid) program. … They would say, ‘Here’s your $3.1 billion and design your own plan.’ I think we can do that. … Even TennCare (the state’s current Medicaid program) experts say that is the case. … The timing is bad now, (Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican) is not going to bring (Insure Tennessee) back up.”

But Ramsey also noted House and Senate Democrats will try something to bring Insure Tennessee back up for consideration.

…Concerning a new push to have medical marijuana in Tennessee, Ramsey said: “I don’t think it has a prayer.”

Rep. Faison proposes to legalize medical marijuana, but only for military veterans

While most Tennessee Republican leaders have indicated opposition to any steps toward legalization of marijuana, state Rep. Jeremy Faison says he is hopeful they will make an exception for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Faison, R-Cosby, said he is drafting legislation that would “decriminalize” possession of marijuana by veterans diagnosed with PTSD, motivated by conversations with several veterans who believe that the medicinal properties of marijuana would help them far more than prescription medications.

“Pills have side effects. … The No. 1 side effect is suicide,” said Faison in an interview last week. “Twenty-eight veterans a day in America are committing suicide.”

“For most ailments man has, God has a remedy,” Faison said, quoting his wife, who has a master’s degree in nutrition. In many cases, the legislator said he believes that is marijuana.

Faison said he personally has never consumed alcohol, marijuana or any other intoxicants — a decision made as a youngster after his sister was killed by a drunken driver a week before her 16th birthday. But he would use marijuana if suffering from a debilitating illness since it has “no side effects” as does alcohol.
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