Nashville, of all places, could be the next U.S. city to ease up on marijuana-related offenses if a new ordinance gets passed this week.
The vote to loosen legal restrictions for people found carrying up to a half-ounce of marijuana will be in the hands of the city’s Metropolitan Council on Tuesday. The New York Times reports:
Under the ordinance, officers will have the discretion to forgo a misdemeanor charge for marijuana possession, and instead issue a civil citation with a $50 fine. A judge could then suspend the civil penalty if the person cited agrees to perform up to 10 hours of community service. The goal here, as elsewhere, is to keep minor drug offenders from clogging the court system, and relieving them of the stigma of a record.
As with decriminalization efforts in other cities, weed offenders would be spared more severe penalties. Still, one issue with the Nashville proposal is that the bill would give officers the choice to either charge offenders or issue a citation, as opposed to just making the citation the default. In fact, a previous draft of the ordinance actually suggested an automatic citation, but this was changed in response to pushback from the Metro Nashville Police Department.
Naturally, if the ordinance does see the light of day in the traditionally sanctified city of Nashville, it’d be a small coup for advocates pushing to legalize weed across the country by chipping away at the stigma of pot as some big scary drug. The Times notes:
In October 1980, the city’s police chief, Joe Casey, declared in a front-page article in The Tennessean that marijuana caused people to rob and kill. Anyone caught growing or selling marijuana three times, Mr. Casey said, or selling it to minors once, should be executed.
In contrast to those earlier irrational times, Nashville’s impending ordinance is reportedly supported by Davidson County’s sheriff and Mayor Megan Barry. It’s but a small step:
It is hardly a sweeping measure, and hardly the most significant American drug policy reform under consideration this year: In November, voters in five states, including California, will consider legalizing recreational marijuana, while at least three states, including Florida and Arkansas, will decide whether to legalize its medical use.
Though opposition has reportedly been “scant,” there are some vocal opponents who think police officers should not be given the choice between charging offenders with civil citations and misdemeanors.
As a wise country singer named Taylor Swift who was born in Pennsylvania and half-raised in Nashville once sang, “These things will change. Can you feel it now?”