The Metro Nashville Davidson County City Council passed a law to decriminalize marijuana on final reading. Now , several questions will have to be answered.
1. How will the Metro Nashville Police Department enforce the new law ?
I expect Chief Anderson to issue a new general order on how the Metro police should respond to the new law. A general order will provide a bright line rule on whether a to issue a municipal citation, a criminal citation, or an arrest warrant. Without a general order being put down, there is too much discretion in the hands of law enforcement.
2. Will the Tennessee Legislature step in to contest the new law on decriminalizing marijuana ?
There is no doubt that the Tennessee Legislature will intervene in this controversy. It will be on the front burner in the next legislative session. Representative William Lamberth was recently quoted on the subject in the Tennessean. He mentioned cutting off road funds to Davidson County.
3. Can a civil violation be expunged ?
Davidson County General Sessions Judge bill Higgins raised the issue on expunging a violation of the marijuana ordinance. A criminal marijuana charge can be expunged from your record if it is dismissed or you were granted judicial diversion. The new marijuana ordinance will always be on your record. but not your criminal record. Most major companies run criminal background checks. Normally, Tennessee criminal convictions are reported to the Tennessee Bureau of investigation. Since , the new law is a civil fine. I doubt it will be reported. No one ever checks the civil docket, but it will be there lurking in your past.
4. Can you be cited for the civil violation and also be arrested ?
The short answer is yes. The police could cite you for a violation of the ordinance and also arrest you. Double jeopardy does not prohibit both a criminal and civil charge. What goes hand in hand with marijuana ? Drug paraphernalia. You have a little weed and a bowl or a grinder. You get a double whammy. A civil penalty for the weed then a criminal charge for the paraphernalia.
5. How will the district attorney's office prosecute simple possession cases ?
No word or statement from the district attorney's office. My guess if the police charge the drug possession as a crime, they will prosecute.
There will be more questions on the new law in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned.