Nashville's city council has decided that it's time to go a little easier on citizens who would rather smoke a joint than have a shot of Tennessee whiskey. The council voted 35-3 this week to give cops the option of decriminalizing marijuana by handing out $50 fines or community service for possession of a half-ounce or less, reports the Tennessean. The bill gives "police the option of not treating someone with a little pot like a hardened criminal," says sponsor Dave Rosenberg. "Because when you start treating good members of our society like criminals, they begin acting like criminals." Mayor Megan Barry says she plans to sign the measure.
Barry says the move isn't a license to use marijuana in Nashville, but a step toward "addressing the overly punitive treatment of marijuana possession in our state that disproportionately impacts low-income and minority residents," Nashville Public Radio reports. State law, however, still considers marijuana possession a criminal offense punishable by one year in jail and a $2,500 fine, and state Rep. William Lamberth has threatened to punish Nashville by withholding state highway funds. He complains that by giving police discretion on how to treat marijuana possession, the move will create situations where "two different individuals face drastically different penalties." (Read more marijuana stories.)