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Memphis lawmaker takes aim at decriminalizing marijuana possession under an ounce

Tennessee is one of six states where marijuana is considered fully illegal.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Memphis Representative London Lamar thinks it's high time for Tennessee to catch up with its neighboring states. Tennessee is only one of six states where marijuana is still considered fully illegal.

That's why she introduced a bill that hopes to decriminalize marijuana possession of under an ounce.

”Here in Tennessee, you’re less than two hours away from states where it’s completely legal," Lamar said. "There are plenty of states around us who are already making moves to decriminalize or legalize small amounts of marijuana. It’s important that Tennessee is not behind all the rest of the states.”

The decriminalization of marijuana plays into a larger conversation in the fight for criminal justice reform. 

“[If] we focus on the facts, I think we can have strong arguments and conversations about how we prefer to decriminalize or allow folks who are in possession, to not be trapped in the criminal justice system," Lamar said.

The bill would not allow the selling of marijuana.

The bill comes after last month's historical passing of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act or the MORE Act by the United States House of Representatives. It would legalize marijuana at the federal level and introduce regulations, reforms and reinvestment to people impacted by the War on Drugs.

The bill still needs to pass through the U.S. Senate. Instead of waiting on that to happen, Lamar said Tennessee should act now.

"This is an opportunity for Tennessee to step up the plate and if I know anything, my colleagues don't like to be told what to do by federal government," Lamar said. "So if that's the case, please support our bill and let's go ahead and decriminalize small amounts of marijuana so that you're not forced to do it by the federal government."

Currently, Memphis and Nashville have ordinances to decriminalize marijuana possession, to a degree.

"This bill will create a uniformed standard across the state," she said.