Friday, August 12, 2016

Metro Councilman Files a Bill to Greatly Reduce the Fine for Pot Possession

Metro Councilman Dave Rosenberg has introduced a bill, cosponsored by Councilmen Freddie O’Connell and and Russ Pulley, that would substantially decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Davidson County. The bill would reduce the penalty for possession or "casual exchange" of up to  a half-ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil penalty. In addition, the judge would have the leeway to sentence the offender to up to ten hours of community service instead of the $50 fine. The offender would not be arrested but would be issued a citation.  There would be no criminal record.

I applaud this effort and urge the Council to support it. If I were serving in the Council, I would vote for it and cosponsor it.  I wish the nation would end pot prohibition but since that is not happening, I hope the Metro Council passes this bill would make possession of up to half an ounce an offense on par with littering.

Marijuana is a harmless drug. It is absolutely ridiculous that society continues to ruin lives and waste millions of dollars arresting and jailing people for engaging in such a harmless activity. Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol If we had more marijuana and less alcohol the world would be a better place. Maybe, if marijuana was legal, more people would choose to get high rather than drunk. The worst thing you can say about marijuana is that it makes people have a stupid grin on their face and think that Oreo cookies are the best thing they ever tasted. People stoned on marijuana are not prone to domestic violence or barroom brawls. Stoned people find life amusing and, by and large, are easygoing and peaceful. Marijuana may be a net plus for society.

Pot prohibition has ruined the lives of many people and wasted millions in resources. Pot prohibition has been as much of a failure as alcohol prohibition. The prohibition has disproportionately harmed the Black community. Studies show that white people use pot in about the same proportion as Black people but Blacks suffer more arrest and harsher penalties. When one is born with the disadvantages of being Black anyway, one arrest for pot possession can condemn one to a life of hopelessness. We have destroyed lives and wasted millions, for what?  For letting people use a substance that makes them happy and is relatively harmless.

Like William F. Buckley, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and tens of millions of other Americans, I have "tried" marijuana. Unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale. Unlike Sarah Palin, I did enjoy it. Pot prohibition is asinine. It is time to end the hypocrisy. Millions of Americans routinely engage in the harmless activity of smoking pot but yet have to lie about it. If they don't lie about it they may get arrested, or lose their job, or lose visitation rights or custody of their kids. I suspect that a lot of people who hold important jobs and are accomplished and responsible people routinely smoke a little dope. But, they cannot say, "yeah, I like to get stoned every once in a while." They may say that in their youth they "tried" the drug, but they do not admit to currently using it.

Making millions of people liars and hypocrites is the least of the things wrong with pot prohibition. People really do get a police record or go to jail or lose their jobs or lose child visitation rights because of using marijuana. Millions and millions of dollars are spend on law enforcement to prohibit people from engaging in a victim-less crime. Police resources are wasted on enforcing pot prohibition rather than concentrating on real crimes. I also suspect that the prohibition against marijuana weakens the ability to control other really harmful drugs. If you tell a young person that marijuana is harmful and then they discover you lied to them, why should they believe you when you tell them that crack or heroine is harmful?

While the Metro Council can not end the federal "war on drugs," we can do our part to have a rational policy that virtually decriminalizes possession of small amounts.  Apparently this law will not conflict with State law. State law considers possession of small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable by up to a fine of $2,500 and a year in jail. The law does not set a minimum punishment. The Council should pass this bill.

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