About this time last year, Spencer Boston was summoned to a criminal court in Lebanon, TN to face a minor marijuana possession charge. During his courtroom appearance, the young man insisted that he should not be punished for smoking weed, because cannabis should be legal in Tennessee and the US at large. And to make sure he got his point across, Boston pulled a joint out of his pocket, sparked it up, and took a puff.
The courtroom erupted in laughter at the sight of Boston's brazen challenge, but General Sessions Judge Haywood Berry was not amused. Haywood declared Boston in contempt of court and charged him with disorderly conduct and a second count of possession. Under state law, each possession charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and fines of $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second. The judge also tacked on another 10 days in jail for the contempt of court charge.
James Holt, who was in the courtroom that day, told News4 Nashville that Boston “lights right up, looking right there at the judge like it wasn’t nothing [sic]. That just goes to show you people supports the fact that it should be legal. They’re willing to pay his bond and pay his fines to help him out.”
Sadly, Boston will no longer have a chance to keep protesting cannabis prohibition. This week, almost exactly one year after his notorious court appearance, Boston died in a car accident. State police told News 4 that Boston lost control of his vehicle earlier this week, striking a traffic barrier and spinning out. Police say that the young man was ejected from the car and struck a guardrail support. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Tennessee is one of the minority US states that still continues to prohibit both medical and recreational cannabis. Lawmakers have proposed bills to decriminalize minor weed offenses like the one Boston was hauled to court for, but with no luck. Memphis and Nashville each passed ordinances to decriminalize pot, but legislators passed a law in 2017 that overturned those ordinances. Politicians have even managed to kill bills to legalize limited medical marijuana programs.
Many states with strongly prohibitionist lawmakers have recently been able to legalize medical or even adult-use cannabis by way of ballot campaigns, so there is still some glimmer of hope that Tennessee can finally join the rest of the country in accepting at least modest cannabis reform.