Charges of simple possession of marijuana have been falling in Memphis over the last three years, according to Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich who said those cases are a very small piece of her office’s workload.
The statements came as loosening city marijuana charges got another hearing Tuesday by the Memphis City Council, Memphis Police Department (MPD) director Michael Rallings, and Weirich.
An ordinance before the council now would allow MPD officers to charge those found with a half ounce or less of marijuana with a $50 fine, instead of a state-ordered misdemeanor. The proposal may get its first vote by the full council Tuesday afternoon.
"The number keeps going down every year and in the most recent number, there won’t even be [a simple possession charge] a day,” Weirich said, noting that no one would even be charged — much less arrested on a possession charge — on some days. “”It’s a very small piece of the docket and the cases we handle on a daily basis.”
Weirich said the figure was 512 in 2013, 472 in 2014, and 333 last year.
Council member Berlin Boyd brought the ordinance to the council two weeks ago and he made some tweaks to it since then. The latest version of the ordinance was published Tuesday.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways form the proposed rule:
• The council does not support or encourage the use of marijuana or any other controlled substance.
• One-half ounce = 14.175 grams
• It will be illegal for anyone to (with intent for marijuana use) to possess paraphernalia like bags, canisters, pill bottles, rolling papers, bowls, bongs, bubblers, and roach clips.
• MPD officers can issue a $50 ticket.
• City courts can waive the penalty if the person agrees to community service, up to:
- 10 hours, first offense
- 20 hours, second offense
- 30 hours, third offense
- 40 hours, fourth offense
• MPD will give an annual report on the new law, which will include gender and racial breakdowns of those ticketed, breakdowns of revenues generated form the tickets and from misdemeanor offenses.
Here's what the law won't do:
• The law cannot be construed to require any city government agency or any Memphis employer to permit the use, consumption, possession, transfer, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace.
• The law would not allow driving under the influence of marijuana.
• The law cannot stop any person, business, or organization that owns property from stopping the possessing, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing or marijuana on or in that property.
Click the link below to see the latest version of the proposal for yourself.