Tennessee’s two largest cities are considering proposals that would make possession of a small amount of marijuana carry the same penalties as a speeding ticket. Local 24 Watchdog Mike Matthews tells us the Governor doesn’t like these ideas at all.
Nashville is working on it. Memphis is about to start working on it. Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee would just assume his two largest cities would just drop it.
It concerns decriminalizing the possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana. Those currently caught could spend time in jail. But Memphis City Councilman Berlin Boyd says he thinks the current law is unfair, and while not calling for legalization, he thinks those caught should only have to pay a fine.
Governor Haslam says that idea doesn’t float his boat. “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.”
Those who support the idea point to a clogged Criminal Justice Center at 201 Poplar, where courtrooms and the jail are jam packed. “201 (Poplar) is full,” says attorney John Maryk, who favors decriminalization. “By doing this, we get the people out of the courtrooms. Also, its going to be a new revenue source.”
While it appears the majority of city council members like the idea of decriminalization, it’s not a unanimous feeling. City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove expressed her feelings in a way that will be remembered for quite some time. “Stop driving and having weed in your car,” she said. “I think responsible weed smokers smoke their joints at home.”
There is no indication out of Nashville that marijuana laws will change when legislators meet next year. There were some changes in penalties that were approved this year. Still, don’t count on Governor Haslam pushing for the changes proposed in Memphis and for the city of Nashville.
“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.