Advocates for decriminalizing marijuana point to improving lives - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Advocates for decriminalizing marijuana point to improving lives, futures

(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

It's an issue people are divided on. Supporters said the proposed ordinance that is now before the Memphis City Council to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana is needed, because it shouldn't be ruining people's lives.

"I think it's great," Larry Crump said. 

Crump supports the proposal and said possession of half an ounce or less of pot shouldn't be able to ruin someone's future like it did his.

"It's been over 30 years since I got that charge," Crump said. "But, it still affects me today."

He said the first thing most companies do when you apply for a job is a background check. He can't remember all the jobs he missed out on because of his marijuana possession charge.

"It's hard. I mean, it's really hard," Crump said. "At times, I mean, the only place you can go is like a temporary service."

He works for himself and gets by on odd jobs, but it's not enough to get ahead.

"I wanna be a legal taxpayer, but then they ain't going to let me," he said. "So, I have to work doing, you know, what they let me do."

Councilman Berlin Boyd told the rest of the council on Tuesday it is stories like Crump's that prompted him to propose the ordinance. The ordinance would eliminate a criminal charge for possessing half an ounce or less, and instead, have them pay a $50 fine or do up to 10 hours of community service.

"Fifty dollars instead of saying you can't, you know, we're gonna write you off now, you know, you're bad," Crump said. "But that don't make a person bad."

Crump said he realized people selling or carrying large quantities should be punished. But, he thinks it's time Memphis stops treating people caught with small amounts of marijuana as criminals, because he said that's what is actually making them into criminals.

"That's actually what's going to keep crime up too, because people can't get jobs because of everything, so what else are they going to resort to?" Crump said.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings has come out strongly against decriminalizing marijuana. He said we shouldn't be passing any laws that make it easier for people to get away with doing drugs.

R. Tyler Marshall, from the University of Memphis School of Public Health and a PhD Candidate with the University of Alberta, issued a letter to the members of the City Council supporting the ordinance.

The letter said, in part, "First, one does not have to be 'pro-drug' or 'pro-marijuana' in order to support sensible decriminalization measures. The decriminalization argument is simple and is based on reliable scientific evidence."

The letter goes on to say that to regulate marijuana possession safely, as opposed to making it a crime and treating it as a crime, helps to improve public health. He also said it helps decrease crime.

"The longstanding 'tough on drugs' policy that targets low-level marijuana users is outdated, and not based on empirical evidence," he writes.

To view the complete letter, click here.

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