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Decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana ordinance passes city council committee

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis City Council has voted to pass an ordinance that will reduce the severity of carrying a small amount of marijuana.

Fifty bucks. That's how much people could end up paying if caught or distributing less than an ounce of weed.

There would also be the possibility of community service as a penalty and nothing would go on the person's record.

The fine is not too cheap but WREG's Troy Washington was  told it’s designed to keep young people from having to pay for their mistakes later in life.

Inside the City Council meeting there were mixed emotions over the new ordinance.

"The one thing that we can do is take away and reduce the penalty as far as putting black eyes on people’s life," said Berlin Boyd, the sponsor of the ordinance.

Sinsous Hobbs said she supports the ordinance since she’s watched family member’s lives ruined over minor drug possession mistakes made early in life.

“I don’t support you giving them so much time for a little amount of marijuana. I don’t think that is fair."

Through the ordinance those caught with half an ounce of marijuana or less would pay a ticket and forgo jail time.

Joe Brown and Janice Fullilove voted against the proposal in the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee.

Worth Morgan abstained, saying more time is needed to gather information.

Those who voted to support the ordinance were Edmund Ford, Jr., Jamita Swearengen, Berlin Boyd, Phillip Spinosa and Martavius Jones.

The ordinance must still go before the full council three times before it can be voted on.

Both the heads of the police and fire department spoke out against the ordinance.

Police Director Rallings said he will never support the ordinance.

He said the city shouldn’t rush into something that could have negative consequences.

"We are trying to jump on a bandwagon and I’m not sure what music is being played."

Council woman Janice Fullilove doesn’t believe modifications should be made to allow the carrying of the illegal drug.

“Stop driving and having weed in your car then you won’t get arrested," she said.

It’s a discussion that is far from over, but for now the marijuana ordinance moves forward despite the rebuttal.

There was a lot of talk about the ordinance helping to free up officers so they could attend to more serious matters, but according to police the ordinance won’t help in that regard because officers would still have to test, tag and weigh marijuana from all stops no matter the amount.

We were also told that if the person is given additional state charges those charges supersede the city ordinance.

Right now, if you are caught with a half ounce of marijuana, it's a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

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