Tennessee: Cities Move To Reduce Marijuana Possession Penalties

by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Members of the Nashville metro council and the Memphis city council have given final approval to municipal legislation providing police the discretion to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders.

Nashville city council members voted 35 to 3 in late September in favor of the new ordinance. It provides police the option of issuing $50 citations for those who possess up to a half-ounce of marijuana. By contrast, under state law, the possession of small amounts of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

The legislation now awaits action from the city’s mayor, who has pledged to sign the ordinance into law.

Members of the Memphis city council decided this week in favor of a similar measure by a 7 to 6 vote. For the better part of the past year, members of Memphis NORML have spent their time lobbying members of the Memphis city council in support of the policy change. However, the director of the Memphis Police Department remains opposed to the proposal and has indicated that he may instruct his officers to not immediately comply with the new ordinance.

Many other cities and counties in the southeastern region of the United States have recently enacted similar ordinances, including Miami-Dade county and West Palm Beach in Florida.

A Republican state lawmaker has threatened to limit funding to the two Tennessee cities if they enact the ordinances into law.

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Pew Poll: Public’s Attitude Shifts Dramatically In Favor Of Marijuana Legalization

cropped-images.jpgBy: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Nearly six in ten Americans now believe that marijuana use ought to be legal and only about one in three favor continuing to criminalize the plant, according to nationwide survey data published today by the Pew Research Center.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents say “The use of marijuana should be made legal,” the highest percentage of Americans ever to answer the question affirmatively in a Pew poll. Only 37 percent of respondents disagree with legalization.

The percentages mark a dramatic shift in public opinion over the past decade. In 2006, only 32 percent of Pew survey respondents favored legalization, while 60 percent opposed the idea. Much of this change is a result of shifting opinions among Millennials (those ages 18 to 35). While only 34 percent of Millennials favored legalizing marijuana in 2006, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of younger Americans support this policy change today.

Democrats (66 percent), Independents (63 percent), and men (60 percent) were also among those most likely to endorse legalization. Support was lowest among those respondents over 71 years of age (33 percent) and Republicans (41 percent).

The survey possesses a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

Separate nationwide surveys conducted by Gallup, CBS, and Morning Consult, among others, show similar levels of support for marijuana legalization among voters.

Voters in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — will be deciding on initiatives to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of cannabis on Election Day.