State Legislators of Tennessee's Black Caucus will rally for marijuana decriminalization on Tuesday.
“We have made criminal justice reform a caucus priority and this is a perfect example of the kind of issue that needs to be discussed," Black Caucus Chairwoman Brenda Gilmore said.
Caucus leaders will meet with Memphis City Council members as well as the Commercial Appeal
Councilman Berlin Boyd, who introduced an ordinance to the council that would allow officers to charge those found with a half ounce or less of marijuana with a $50 fine rather than a state-ordered misdemeanor, will lead a press conference with Caucus Legislators at 12:30 p.m. in the Hall of Mayors at Memphis City Hall. They will also appear on WREG's Live at 9.
“Statistics have shown that the impact of these low level drug offenses hits harder on poor and minority communities, saddling many with crippling criminal records and lessening their chances of employment, housing and other areas of life,” Gilmore said.
City Council meets Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. with a second reading and vote expected on the consent calendar.
State Rep. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) recently said that should Memphis and Nashville, which is considering similar legislation, pass "pretend marijuana decriminalization measures, he'll introduce legislation that would block highway funds from both cities.
“That’s not a bill that I would want to file, but it’s a bill that I’m certainly willing to file if Nashville and Memphis continue down this extraordinarily reckless and unjust path,” he told The Tennessean
The ordinance, however, has garnered support from representatives who say the punishment for possession no longer correlates with the crime.
"At a time when more and more states are allowing medicinal and recreational use, we can no longer in good conscience lock people up and charge them fines they can never afford to pay," state Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Shelby County) said.