Nashville county to vote on bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -- Metro Council is getting ready to vote on a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Davidson County.

The idea faces its share of hurdles before it gets close to law. There has been a lot of back and forth on the issue for weeks now.

On Tuesday night, the marijuana bill comes up for the second of three readings.

If it survives another vote Tuesday night, it goes to the Public Safety Committee for discussion, and then it's an up or down vote on the third reading.

The ordinance would impose a $50 fine for anyone caught with one half ounce or less of marijuana.

Councilman Steve Glover says you can count on him voting no because he says it conflicts with state law, which makes possessing marijuana a misdemeanor punishable with one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

"The problem is Metro's law does not supersede the Tennessee law. State law will always prevail," Glover said.

Glover maintains it should not be up to an officer to determine if an offender should be charged with state law or Metro law.

"I don't think they need to be put in the place of being the judge; that's why we have judges," Glover said.

The lead sponsor of the bill, Councilman Dave Rosenberg, says there will be guidelines on which one applies.

"Police officers are well trained. They'll know what they're doing out there," Rosenberg said.

For Rosenberg, if you're caught and you're not smoking marijuana and driving or planning to sell it and aren't in possession of smoking paraphernalia, you shouldn't have a criminal record.

"Currently if you get caught with a joint, you're gonna get a criminal record that's gonna follow you for the rest of your life. Makes it more difficult to get a job, to get a student loan, to get a mortgage, severely limits your abilities to live a legitimate lifestyle," Rosenberg said.

Glover maintains all of that goes up in smoke, so to speak, for one reason: officer discretion.

"If you get pull over by the wrong officer, you can still go to jail, you can still have a $2,500 fine. It's still a misdemeanor," Glover said.

"We are simply giving officers an additional option for handling a minor offense," Rosenberg said.

The bill needs 21 votes to pass its second reading, then it goes to Metro Council's Public Safety Committee. They can decide whether or not to recommend it.

Either way, it's on to a third reading and a final up or down vote.

Most believe there are at least 21 "yes" votes to pass the bill.

Click here to read the full text of the proposed ordinance.


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