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City says new marijuana ordinance could go into affect in two weeks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Wednesday evening the City of Memphis' chief operating officer Doug McGowen said he expects the changed marijuana ordinance to go into affect in two weeks.

McGowen said there is work to be done but said it should start after the next scheduled City Council meeting in two weeks after they approve the minutes.

On Tuesday night the council decided in a 7-6 vote to change the penalties if a person is caught with one-half ounce or less of marijuana.

Nashville approved a similar ordinance a few weeks ago.

While it's still a crime, instead of jail time, offenders will face a $50 fine or community service. It's 10 hours of community service for the first offense, 20 for the second, 30 for the third and up to 40 hours for the fourth offense.

Minutes after the council made the historic decision, when Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings was asked about implementing the ordinance, he said the "ink was still wet."

Rallings said he has never been against the ordinance but said he wanted to make sure it was thoroughly discussed and those involved in implementing the changes were organized.

"We're gonna have to coordinate with the city court clerk's office, the city court and the city's prosecutor's office on how this is all gonna be handled," Rallings told the council Tuesday night.

McGowen said within the next week or so the city prosecutor, city clerk, Memphis Police Department and administrative judge for the courts will meet to figure out what changes need to be made to the system for collecting the fines. It's unknown if any of the changes will cost the city anything.

Chris Jackson lives in Orange Mound. He's surprised by the change.

"Yea, it affected me. A couple more people," he said.

WREG asked him if he thinks the new ordinance could encourage more people using marijuana, possibly leading to DUIs while high.

"Naw, I don't think so. I don't think so. I think it will get them motivated, want to get a job. They feel like it's stopping them if its on their background," he said.

"Don't keep it on you. You know it's illegal. Why do it?" said another woman.

"Once we talk to all these entities and they say they're ready for us to issue these ordinances, summons, then we'll do it but until then we'll continue to issue misdemeanor citations," said Rallings.

WREG reached out to MPD and the clerk's office for further comment but have not heard back.