In July of 2020, the Davidson County District Attorney's Office announced that it will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana possession offenses. This does not mean that weed is decriminalized. Under Tennessee law, simple possession of less than 1/2 ounce of the substance is still a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. At their discretion, police officers in the county may arrest someone they catch with small amounts of weed. But, under the new policy, that individual might not face a criminal charge or a conviction.
Creating Greater Fairness in the Criminal Justice System
District Attorney Glenn Funk noted that marijuana charges disproportionately affect minorities. Often many more people of color are arrested and convicted of pot-related offenses than their white counterparts.
Funk said that the discrepancies in the justice system can be addressed by stopping the prosecution of low-level marijuana crimes. He also stated that his office would consider expunging records of anyone previously convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana. An expungement effectively clears a person's criminal record of the offense, removing obstacles from their life.
Allocating Resources Elsewhere
The costs of prosecuting marijuana cases and holding offenders in jail are significant. Funk said that the money saved from not pursuing these offenses can be used for prosecuting violent crime matters and helping victims of criminal offenses.
A Shift in Views on Marijuana
Although possession of less than 1/2 an ounce of marijuana is still illegal, the Davidson County District Attorney's Office's new policies represent a shift and growing trend in how such matters are handled. Other counties across the country have enacted similar guidelines for prosecuting weed offenses. And several states have decriminalized or legalized the substance for recreational use.
At May McKinney, to better serve our clients in Nashville, our lawyers stay current on changes and updates in the legal system. If you've been charged with marijuana possession or any other drug crime, call us at (615) 265-6383 or contact us online to discuss your case and legal options.