POLL: Marijuana bill seeks citations over arrests

Marijuana bill seeks citations over arrests
Antonio Parkinson (Source: WMC Action News 5 archives)
Antonio Parkinson (Source: WMC Action News 5 archives)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - When Tennesseans head to the polls to vote for a president in November, they may also be voting on a new marijuana referendum.

In 2015, more than 1,900 people were arrested in Tennessee for having less than one ounce of of pot in their possession, according to the state department of corrections.

District 98 Representative Antonio Parkinson said rather than creating a bill to legalize pot, he is introducing legislation to prioritize how police respond to crimes.

"I don't feel like it should be the priority of our law enforcement officers being tied up on someone with small possession of marijuana in their pocket," Parkinson said.

The bill would allow officers to hand out citations to people caught with one ounce or less of pot. Parkinson's bill would not change the fact that marijuana is illegal in Tennessee, but it would give officers the ability to cite someone instead of arresting them.

Parkinson said it comes down freeing up officers to handle two types of crimes differently.

"You have crimes that make you mad, and you have crimes that make you scared," he said. "Our law enforcement should be focusing on crimes that make you scared."

"It's more murderers that need to be in jail instead of people that are getting pulled over about a little amount of weed," supporter Rebecca Caruthers said.

"I think that it would be much easier for police officers to focus more on the real crime in our city," supporter Robin Willingham said.

However, not everyone is on board with the proposed change. Opponents said the bill sends a message of leniency to drug offenders.

Ultimately, Parkinson said he would like to allow voters to weigh-in on the matter.

"It simply gives people an opportunity through referendum to say how they feel about how and who our law enforcement officers are tying their time up incarcerating," Parkinson said.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.