TN: Sheriff Hall – Nashville Pot Decriminalization Bill Is ‘Step In Right Direction’


Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall says he supports an effort to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Nashville, calling it a “step in the right direction” to reduce incarceration rates of young people who he says don’t benefit from being in jail for the offense.

Hall discussed his stance on NewsChannel5’s OpenLine on Tuesday. He told The Tennessean this week that he supports “the sprit” of an ordinance under consideration in the Metro Council that would lessen the penalty for people who knowingly possess a half-ounce of marijuana or less to a $50 civil penalty or 10 hours of community service.

“This doesn’t legalize marijuana,” he said of the bill. “The way I see it and the way I understand it, this is a step in the right direction. It still has some accountability built into it and as far as I’m concerned, it’s time that we talk about what’s best to do that.

“Some estimates are that 20 percent of people who are going to jails and prisons in this country are for very small amounts of marijuana or other drugs, obviously,” he said. “I haven’t discussed it with the sponsors or anything, but I just believe it’s the right direction.”

Hall, whose office oversees Nashville’s jails, said he doesn’t believe arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana has proven beneficial. The proposal would let violators avoid a criminal record.

“What that does for the long-term – I just don’t believe that’s been very effective,” he said of arresting people for the violation. “There’s no evidence that it has been. I also have some problem with the hypocrisy of alcohol and its effects in this country, and it’s perfectly legal. So, that’s my position.”

Nashville’s marijuana decriminalization measure faces a key second of three votes on Tuesday after it survived an unexpected first-reading roll-call vote two weeks ago.

A spokesman for Mayor Megan Barry has said the mayor is “generally supportive” of efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but she has not offered a formal position on the Metro ordinance.

Though Hall supports the bill, the Metro Nashville Police Department has expressed opposition in its current form because of language in the ordinance that says violators “shall” be issued a citation for a civil penalty of $50. The department says the use of that word removes discretion from police officers.

In response to those concerns, Councilman Dave Rosenberg, one of the lead sponsors of the legislation, said he plans on introducing an amendment that would insert the word “may” instead of “shall.” He said another amendment that will be considered in committee next week would remove the “casual exchange” of small amounts of marijuana from being decriminalized as part of the ordinance.

Earlier this week, the Tennessee state legislature’s Black Caucus, which consists of all Democrats, endorsed Nashville’s decriminalization bill as well as similar legislation under consideration in Memphis. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has expressed concerns with the proposals.

Under Tennessee law, people caught with one-half ounce of marijuana or less face a misdemeanor charge that is punishable of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Rosenberg has argued his bill would simply create a “local parallel ordinance” to the state law, likening the decriminalization measure to Metro’s law for littering, which he said has penalties not as severe as what is outlined in state law.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Sheriff Hall – Nashville Pot Decriminalization Bill Is ‘Step In Right Direction’
Author: Joey Garrison
Contact: 615-259-8095
Photo Credit: Ariana Sawyer
Website: The Tennessean