Although Tennessee’s governing forces have not exactly been a friend to the concept of marijuana reform, there is a possibility the state could see some minute changes in the penalties associated with small time pot possession thrown on the books later this year.
State Representative Antonio Parkinson of Memphis recently introduced a bill (House Bill 109), proposing an increase in the state’s marijuana possession threshold in an attempt to prevent so many of those busted for this offense from being slapped with felony drug charges. The bill, while not a push to decriminalize small time pot possession, would raise the current half-ounce possession limit for misdemeanors to one ounce.
After seeing how state officials, specifically Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, reacted to the passing of ordinances in Nashville and Memphis, making minor marijuana possession punishable with a $50 fine, Parkinson hopes his bill will be considered a reasonable compromise this year within the halls of the state legislature.
Last year, Slatery came forward in a prohibitionist panic when the two largest cities in Tennessee went against the grain of state law and gave police permission to stop dragging petty pot offenders to jail. The state’s leading hammer even went as far as to issue a statement, which suggested: “A municipal ordinance that attempts to regulate a field that is regulated by state statute cannot stand if it is contradictory to state law.”
In part, Slatery’s attempt to sabotage the decriminalization ordinances worked: Memphis suspended its plan, but Nashville officials refused to be bullied into submission.
Still, it remains unknown whether the state legislature is prepared to get onboard with a modest marijuana proposal, such as the one being offered up by Parkinson.
Last year, a full decriminalization bill was introduced in the House and Senate intended to completely eliminate the criminal penalties associated with the possession of up to an ounce of weed. Ultimately, the proposal was snuffed out due to the concerns pouring from the mouths of the usual suspects.
However, the newfound attitude surrounding marijuana legalization in the United States could be enough to persuade both Democrats and Republicans to come together on this minor tweak in the law in the coming months.
If passed, HB109 would prevent more people across the state from being marred by a felony drug conviction.