The Office of the District Attorney for Davidson County (population: 694,000), which includes the city of Nashville, has announced that it will immediately cease prosecuting low-level marijuana possession offenses.
In a statement issued yesterday by District Attorney Glenn Funk, he said that activities involving the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis would no longer be prosecuted by county officials. “Marijuana charges do little to promote public health, and even less to promote public safety,” he said.
The District Attorney further opined that marijuana law enforcement has disproportionately impacted people of color. The policy change will reprioritize funding and resources toward the prosecution of more serious crimes, he added.
Commenting on the policy change, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose. This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.”
In recent months, District Attorneys in several municipalities nationwide — including Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — have similarly taken steps to cease marijuana-related prosecutions.
The move marks the second time in recent years that Nashville officials have acted to limit criminal prosecutions for minor marijuana offenses. In 2016, city lawmakers in Nashville and Memphis passed legislation providing police with the discretion to cite and fine minor marijuana possession offenders in lieu of making an arrest and filing criminal charges. However, months later state lawmakers passed legislation repealing those municipal statutes.