Nashville Going to Pot Because of Country Music?
It's all going to pot in Music City, and nobody seems to be complaining.
The Nashville Metropolitan Council has just passed an ordinance that will change the way marijuana laws are enforced in Nashville, and according to the New York Times, country music may have played a role in helping de-stigmatize the once-taboo subject for residents.
The ordinance grants police officers the discretion to issue a civil citation and a $50 fine to someone caught with a small amount of marijuana, instead of arresting them and charging them with a misdemeanor for possession. A judge will also have the discretion to suspend the civil penalty if the defendant agrees to perform up to 10 hours of community service.
While it's not the sort of sweeping across-the-board legalization currently on the table in other states, it's a surprisingly progressive step for the capitol city of a state as deeply conservative as Tennessee, and the Times reports that country music's seeming embrace of marijuana might have something to do with changing attitudes.
Marijuana has become more and more openly mainstream in country music in recent years; Eric Church scored a hit single called "Smoke a Little Smoke," and Kacey Musgraves won a CMA award for Song of the Year for "Follow Your Arrow," which urged fans, "If the straight and narrow gets a little too straight, roll up a joint." Florida Georgia Line's "Sun Daze" referenced weed and was a massive radio hit, along with Jason Aldean's recent No. 1 smash, "Lights Come On." Country breakout star Chris Stapleton included a song titled "Might as Well Get Stoned" on his Grammy-winning debut album, Traveller.
Willie Nelson has long been an open advocate for marijuana legalization and even launched his own signature brand of weed, Willie's Reserve. He collaborated with Merle Haggard on a song titled "It's All Going to Pot," whose lyrics admonished, "It's all going to pot / Whether we like it or not." The video features the two country legends merrily smoking it up in the studio.
The ordinance is aimed at preventing the legal system from being clogged with minor drug offenders, and it garnered the support of a wide range of key figures in Nashville, including the local sheriff and police chief in Davidson County. The bill passed in an overwhelming majority vote on Tuesday night (Sept. 20), 35-3.
Councilman Russ Pulley was a sponsor of the proposal, and he says the court system should be reserved for more serious offenses, adding that young people should not see their futures impacted over a minor offense.
“These kids that have made stupid mistakes — I hate to see them carry these stupid mistakes with them the rest of their lives,” he tells the Times.
Singer-songwriter Todd Snider is open about his marijuana use, and he says that mainstream country songs referencing pot is an indication of its widespread acceptance.
"That’s the barometer," he observes of country radio. "Those guys don’t say stuff that mom don't tolerate. And mom's like, 'Ah, pot's not so bad anymore.'"
Snider argues that marijuana is a valuable tool to use in creating Nashville's primary export: songs.
"For starters, our job is to lower our inhibitions," he states. "And anyway, if Paul McCartney does it, you'd be a fool not to do it."
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has indicated that she will sign the bill into law. She released the following statement after Tuesday night's vote:
This legislation is a positive step forward in addressing the overly punitive treatment of marijuana possession in our state that disproportionately impacts low-income and minority residents. It is important to stress that this ordinance is not a license to sell, possess, or use marijuana in Nashville. When this ordinance becomes law, police officers will still have the ability to make arrests or issue state criminal citations for marijuana possession as circumstances warrant, which is a Class A misdemeanor under state law.
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