Could marijuana pardons happen in Tennessee?

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 11:17 PM EDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After President Joe Biden said he wants to pardon those prosecuted on a federal level for marijuana offenses, he’s calling on state governors to follow his lead.

Tennessee State Senator Raumesh Akbari worked with the Biden campaign in 2020 to address drug laws around marijuana.

“It’s up to governors across the country that we don’t have folks in jail, their lives completely ruined their access to housing, or education and even a good paying job simply because of possession of or use of marijuana,” said Senator Raumesh Akbari. “A product that is legal in many states across this country.”

Action News 5 reached out to Governor Bill Lee’s office Thursday shortly after the president’s announcement. A spokesperson told us:

“We’re not considering this in Tennessee.”

Meanwhile, “Just City” Executive Director Josh Spickler says there’s not much to be done in Memphis and Shelby County.

“The general assembly stepped in and intervened and passed a law prohibiting us from governing ourselves in that matter,” said “Just City” Executive Director Josh Spickler. “So until the state acts there’s nothing that the local community can do. I think the best we can do right now is to have a district attorney who has deprioritized prosecution of marijuana charges.”

On the campaign trail, District Attorney Steve Mulroy told Action News 5 he would like to refocus on violent crime and “stop wasting time on things like marijuana possession.”

Over the years, the Memphis City Council has discussed a variety of marijuana decriminalization efforts.

Friday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland shared his thoughts on the matter.

“I’ve never focused on minor crimes,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. “My focus has always been on violent criminals that are causing harm to others so I’m gonna leave that to others.”

President Biden also wants a review on how marijuana is scheduled federally. According to the Biden Administration, it’s currently on the same schedule as heroin and LSD.

Senator Akbari says this is also an important piece of this announcement. Re-scheduling the drug could also reduce or eliminate criminal penalties for possession.

Senator Akbari also says some Republicans in the general assembly have said they’d be interested in looking into marijuana legislation if the drug were re-scheduled.

In Tennessee, simple possession of more than a half ounce of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail or a $250 fine.

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