TN: Confusion Remains Over Metro Marijuana Decriminalization Bill


Nashville, TN – Metro Council will decide in two weeks whether to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, but there is one section of the bill that’s creating a lot of confusion.

Under Tennessee law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail.

The Metro proposed ordinance says officers can simply write a $50 citation for this offense.

So if state law trumps local law, what does this mean for law enforcement?

The bill allows officers to use their discretion on whether to follow local law or state law.

“We cannot direct officers to ignore state law, and that’s been my argument from the beginning, so while they have options of granting the civil penalty, that doesn’t mean they do not have to follow state law,” Metro Councilmen Steve Glover said.

But other cities have done it, and Metro Councilmen Dave Rosenberg said they have done it well.

“Typically in other cities that have done this, they give some guidelines to officers as to when it is appropriate to make a civil citation and when it is appropriate to make an arrest,” Rosenberg said.

Miami, FL, which has a similar law, offers guidelines to officers.

In New Orleans, officers can arrest someone under state law, but must have the approval of a supervisor to do so.

“I don’t think we are giving our citizens enough credit – they will get it. They will understand that city officers enforce differently than state guys do,” Metro Councilmen Russ Pulley said.

Since the ordinance hasn’t been approved yet in Metro, it’s unclear what sorts of guidelines officers will follow, but there already is concern about certain groups being targeted.

“A police officer sees a young man hand another person a joint. That would be casual exchange maybe on West End, but on Napier Court that would be intent to distribute. I’ve seen this happen,” Metro Councilman Ed Kindall said.

Sponsors of the bill say they are confident the city will come up with a plan that will not unfairly target anyone.

The bill heads to third and final reading on Sept. 20.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall says he supports it, while Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson says he is neutral.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Confusion Remains Over Metro Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
Author: Liz Lohuis
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