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A Tennessee prosecutor announces major change in drug crime policy

If you drive about 135 miles northwest of Chattanooga, you will arrive in a part of Tennessee where possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana has been effectively decriminalized. According to news reports, Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk has said his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession charges against those people who have less than half of an ounce.

His office issued a statement: “Marijuana charges do little to promote public health, and even less to promote public safety.”

DA’s top priority

Funk said his office’s top priority is to prosecute violent crime and to support victims.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper supports the change, saying “we are doing everything we can to keep nonviolent young people out of the criminal justice system.”

Bold, progressive

A criminal defense attorney in Tennessee’s capital said of the DA’s announcement, “you don’t see prosecutors, at least in Tennessee, making progressive, bold statements like this,” adding that Funk “is a leader in this regard.”

Funk said those arrested for marijuana possession “are not endangering our community, but are saddled with the collateral consequences of a narcotics arrest record.” He also stated that “when you combine that with the racial disparities, it becomes clear it needs to end.”

As you might know, a recent study by the ACLU determined that African Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites, though both ethnicities use the substance at roughly the same rate.

Racial disparity

The Tennesseean reports that in Nashville, annual marijuana possession busts have skewed against the city’s racial make-up. Last year, 68 percent of those arrested in the city for marijuana possession were African American, though the US Census Bureau says Nashville is 63 percent white.

No announcements similar to Funk’s have come from Chattanooga or Hamilton County officials.

Current Tennessee law is that possession of less than a half ounce of marijuana is a class A misdemeanor and that the sale of marijuana from half an ounce to 10 pounds is a class E felony.

If you face marijuana possession charges in Chattanooga – or any other drug charges – contact a criminal defense attorney experienced in helping to protect rights and freedom.

State Bar of Georgia
TBA | Tennessee Bar Association
CBA | Chattanooga Bar Association
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