Tennessee: Cities Move To Reduce Marijuana Possession Penalties

Cannabis PenaltiesMembers of the Nashville metro council and the Memphis city council have given final approval to municipal legislation providing police the discretion to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders.

Nashville city council members voted 35 to 3 in late September in favor of the new ordinance. It provides police the option of issuing $50 citations for those who possess up to a half-ounce of marijuana. By contrast, under state law, the possession of small amounts of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

The legislation now awaits action from the city’s mayor, who has pledged to sign the ordinance into law.

Members of the Memphis city council decided this week in favor of a similar measure by a 7 to 6 vote. For the better part of the past year, members of Memphis NORML have spent their time lobbying members of the Memphis city council in support of the policy change. However, the director of the Memphis Police Department remains opposed to the proposal and has indicated that he may instruct his officers to not immediately comply with the new ordinance.

Many other cities and counties in the southeastern region of the United States have recently enacted similar ordinances, including Miami-Dade county and West Palm Beach in Florida.

A Republican state lawmaker has threatened to limit funding to the two Tennessee cities if they enact the ordinances into law.

19 thoughts

  1. Nice job but pathetic in Memphis on the part of that police director. What a joke, along with that one legislator who considered filing a bill to withhold highway funding if it passes. Just so stupid, Tennessee needs to get with the times and the future. Last I checked they are also still arresting people I think for possession under 20 grams in Broward County, Florida as well. It is so stupid, these moves are great but nearly worthless if police don’t even bother to take notice of them, not to mention perhaps the courts. Nice job, Memphis, but you better make certain the police considering using it, REGARDLESS of what that legislator and those opposed including that police director say or think! It’s frankly somewhat disgusting people are still against such progress. Makes me sick. No Tennessee for me!

    1. Agree with you @Matt they shouldn’t arrest anyone for having 20 grams, or any amount, but maybe the incremental strategy here of at first making the no-arrest cutoff point 1 or 2 grams would be “politically” the most effective next step, hey if you have a flexdrawtube oneheater 2 grams is 80 tokes!
      Anyone who knows the low lighter vapetoke technique will get, as I do, totally adequate ideas-rush from one or two tokes at a well chosen point in time (right before intending Creative activity) followed by nothing ingested but water in the next 99.9 minutes.

  2. Mr. Lamberth needs a reality check perhaps. The Memphis Police should stop living in fear, Tennessee as a long way to go. Scary thing is, Lamberth’s bill, if he files it, will probably pass.

  3. What this city ordinance is going to do is separate the good cops from the bad cops, including prosecutors who pretend to be judges in order to collect asset forfeitures.
    We demand that neither the smell of marijuana or alleged sight of it is justifiable cause to take someone’s money to court… or to kill a black man… or to incite unwarranted and predatory escalation of women or minorities, or to ever again use non-violent possession of marijuana as a gateway-prosecutorial tool to relieve Americans of our 1st, 2nd or 4th amendment rights.
    We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, hereby decree that there shall be no marijuana or whole plant exception to our Bill of Rights of our most sacred Constitution, and no executive privilege for neither law enforcement nor president, no censorship or expulsion too great for Congress, and no authority vested in any judge, state or Federal that cannot answer and be held accountable for the violation of these basic human rights.

  4. For convenience, I’ve summarized the NORML congressional scorecard below, for Tennessee, and threw in Kentucky as well.
    Please vote OUT all “D’s” and “F’s”! They gotta go!

    NORML congressional scorecard
    For details, and info on other states, click on:

    Lamar Alexander (R): “C”
    Bob Corker (R): “D”

    Steve Cohen (D): “A+”
    Jim Cooper (D): “B”
    Jimmy Duncan (R): “B”
    Diane Black (R): “D”
    Marsha Blackburn (R): “D”
    Scott DesJarlais (R): “D”
    Stephen Fincher (R): “D”
    Chuck Fleischmann (R): “D”
    Phil Roe (R): “D”

    Rand Paul (R): “B+”
    Mitch McConnell (R): “F”

    Thomas Massie (R): “B+”
    John Yarmuth (D): “B”
    Andy Barr (R): “D”
    Brett Guthrie (R): “D”
    Hal Rogers (R): “D”
    Ed Whitfield (R): “D”

  5. I am so pleased about this – a foot in the door! Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen!

    1. It is a good thing that city councils are usually able to terminate police chiefs who are incompetent…and, food for thought: when weed is not legal, cops say “we don’t make the laws, we just enforce them,” yet when a city or state moves to change that status quo, all of a sudden the cops feel entitled to legislate and enforce laws as though they had not been changed by a well informed city council. So, to all coppers out there, you either are all legislators and are all PERSONALLY responsible for the b.s. laws you enforce, or, you are NOT legislators and are guilty of treason every time you look for a loophole to make arrests even though the laws are changing. Either way you are guilty as long as you walk a convenient line as opposed to doing your JOB. Being a police officer is JUST A JOB, NOT A LIFESTYLE. Stop taking your JOBS so seriously! There are plenty of murderers on the loose if you really want to hassle somebody.

      1. The police officers that continue to arrest people after the ordinance has changed are evidently involved in the marijuana trade of manufacture, distribution, etc. the have their street dealing informants out selling the weed to everyone, then the informants rat the buyers off and here comes Mr. corrupted policeman….huh…must be a kingpin of the trade…Go Figure. Why do you think these cops are unwilling to follow the new ordinances? Because they make more MONEY as long as they can keep their corrupted operation intact.

  6. I think we would not be seeing this reform without the ACLU study making it clear blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana. Since black leaders have become involved in reform, there is no standing in our way anymore. The police did themselves in – shot themselves in the foot – by arresting black men in poor neighborhoods. I was along for the Cops program walking patrols through poor neighborhoods in Middle Tennessee. A scent – a suspicious dodge – often led to a foot chase and a black man wrestled down and arrested over a bag of weed. The police came to the more affluent, and whiter neighborhoods only when someone complained. Poor tactics and the ACLU study have killed the drug war, now that black Americans are in board. The majority of blacks voted against legalization in California, last time. Now they know what is happening on the streets. NORML pointed out the racial disparity in arrests before the ACLU, it seems to me. But I don’t know that history. Anyway we are winning, friends. The other side – especially the people being defeated in these elections, these narrow majorities of voters, are still working against us – watching us harder than ever in these battleground states. What Nashville is getting might be the best case scenario, if we want to avoid being arrested and also avoid making enemies. A half ounce is not much, though, if you don’t like worrying your dealer to death with phone calls. Here in New Orleans the decrim amount is up to two pounds. Funny how these limits vary – further checkerboarding marijuana law. State Rep. Lamberth, the former prosecutor, should see public protests in his district over his threat to Nashville’s transportation funds, and for getting in the way of reform. Everyone needs Nashville’s roads to work, including thousands of commuters from Sumner County.

    1. @saferinneworleans, yes, you are correct, the ACLU told blacks “this is only about you, only you are affected” just like they did with BlackLivesMatter. The result is unsurprising: those movements only care about perceived injustices to blacks rather than confronting injustices in general. There is also the fact that in many black neighborhoods the ACTUAL crime rate is higher. This means that, contrary to many liberal groups’ claims of popice singling out blacks, in many areas more of those committing crimes ARE INDEED BLACK! So too with marijuana…in predominantly black areas, most smokers of marijuana are also going to be black, and it really has nothing to do with racism, and everything to do with profiling of age (15 to 35) and colored bandanas, twisted hats and other gang signs. If you are white in Detroit wearing a red rag and your hat pointed off to the left you will be harassed just as quick as a black guy dressed the same way. Still wrong, but not actually racism.

      1. Racismsan is economic and asset forfrutures incentivize predatory policing on profilin people who are perceived unlikely to fight back in court or afford an attorney or at least know their way around the local courthouse.
        Its been 20 years since the ACLU released their repor that black Americans are 8 times more likely to be arrested for possession of the same inclamount of marijuana white Americans admit to consuming. Youre right;just like how Republicans didnt dismiss any of Trumps racist comments until it affected someone in their own family or voting constituency… women, discriminatory policing and drug policies have festered.
        But now we have a synthetic opiate epidemic targeting anyone with health insurance and pain to prescribe to. White communities are being targeted for their incom and now with Insys we see the donations to prove it.
        The beauty of the dilemma is 5 states including Arizona are legalizing 6 plants homegrown and revenue for education, and Americans will vote with their dollars for whole plant cannabis over synthetics every time.
        And what better way to commense the healing of a nation than allow Americans of all races and occupations consume marijuana together as we turn our prisons into schools?

      2. What a load of shit! Acknowledging racism is not racist; refusing to acknowledge racism is racist.

  7. Since this passed the way it did, and the City Council in Nashville is insisting on follow-up reports regarding the racial make-up of those arrested under the new law, one can assume the police are going to need to arrest a white person now and then, to make sure things stay balanced. It might also be assumed that police have a new carrot-and-stick approach for talking people into becoming narcs. Friends, we need to be as cautious as ever, as circumspect as ever, as smart as ever, and remember our right to remain silent. Ed Steinborn, scholar and advocate for many a toker, said we are “deer in the woods.” We must continue to act like deer in the woods, lest we become some of the last arrest statistics as this war fizzles out. These new laws passed for a certain, definite reason – and it was not due to everyone suddenly deciding to embrace and love marijuana smokers.

  8. Julian, I agree with you, but we are not in much position to make demands in Tennessee. We are lucky every day they are not breaking the door down – our doors or our friends’ doors. Unless the Jeremy Durham scandal really gets wings and results in historic turnover in the Legislature – and it still might, friends; it is already throwing a huge shadow over the Republican leadership – but unless it does, we still have a huge uphill battle to freedom.

    1. Hey, NORML founder and Legal council Keith Stroup has been demanding our right to consume marijuana for half a century, and he didnt even give up during a 15 year stall in reform. We have to remind ourselves what our ultimate goals are or we will only win battles and lose the war.
      Incidentally, I learned from a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition recently at a marijuana reform event in San Antonio that we can anonymously file a complaint with internal affairs when we witness police corruption. He has more faith than me; I would have federal judge investigate the entire police station with prejiduce, because even the DOJ is the “Fox guarding the hen house.”
      Ultimately we need more of us marijuana activist running for city council to ban asset forfeitures which have been copied into local county governments from the rotten example of the Controlled Substances Act. We need police to stop looking at our vehicles or our ability to fight back in court and instead see we are someone’s son or daughter, father or mother… or might even know some mutual people in that regard.
      Also, a lawyer at the event said when the police take your assets to court, with or without due process, we need to appeal or sue as third persons to speak for our property. Cases involving asset forfeitures literally read as “The state of Tenessee vs. $30,000,” or “The state of Texas vs. a brown 2005 Chevy Tahoe full of 300lbs. of snowcrabs,” (ok I made that last one up, but you get the picture).
      Don’t be afraid to go pro-se, but its always better to file in a larger court outside of the kickback county your judge may be profiting from. There is Legal Aid if you search for it. By the way, if you see a judge driving a brown 2005 Chevy Tahoe full of 300lbs of frozen snowcrabs, do us all a favor and send the video to his campaign opposition.

  9. It seems to me that State Rep. Lamberth seeks to be the most hated man on Capitol Hill. Local media have reported that it was the DUI bill he carried, after all, that required a special session to fix. That special session evolved into the impeachment trial of Jeremy Durham. The episode has the Republican leadership in the cross-hairs. And since they acted outside the governor’s request for a special session, doing business other than fixing Rep. Lamberth’s DUI bill, former Rep. Durham has a good case against the state of Tennessee and the Legislature. It is not hard to think of a Davidson County judge finding the House acted outside its authority by holding the struggle-session and impeachment in the middle of the special session called to fix the DUI bill, and that the only solution – because this fart cannot be sucked back in – is monetary damages to Durham, from the state, approximately equaliing his potential in a political career. The voters of Williamson County were the best deciders of Jeremy Durham’s fitness to represent them, absent any criminal case. And they did the right thing, overwhelmingly voting him out (about 3,000 votes to just over 600 votes for Durham). That would have been the end of it without Lamberth’s bungled DUI bill which threatened the loss of federal transportation funds in Tennessee. Now he threatens to use the same process – a process turned dirty trick, in this case – to stop reform in Nashville? What a guy! House Speaker Beth Harwell, Republican Majority Leader Glen Casada, and other formerly comfortable potentates are still threatened by the Durham scandal. This was a tawdry series of drunken gropes and creepy text messages no one will ever hear the end of, after a historic impeachment. They should all should be lined up to prevent Rep. Lamberth from bringing up the transportation bill, if for no other reason than its every mention in the media will remind everyone of the extraordinary impeachment hearing.

  10. Time for Chattanooga, 2016 best outdoor town, to join in this party. Too bad the mayor there is too busy sleeping with his assistants and dealing with rising gang violence to get something like this done.

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