Lawmakers move to block new Nashville, Memphis marijuana laws

Nashville’s Metro Council made history Tuesday by approving the city’s first measure to allow lesser civil penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

A House subcommittee has approved a bill that would nullify partial marijuana decriminalization law approved in Nashville and Memphis last year.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, would repeal any local law that is inconsistent with penalties in state statues pertaining to drug control and narcotics and prevent local governments from creating their own sanctions.

The measure is aimed at ordinances that city councils in Nashville and Memphis passed in the fall that gave police new authority to hand out lighter civil citations for possession of small amount of marijuana instead of charging people with state misdemeanors. Supporters pushed the bills as a way to allow first-time offenders to avoid criminal records.

Despite the legislation coming in response to ordinances passed by city councils in Memphis and Nashville, the topic wasn’t broached when the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee took up House Bill 173 on Tuesday.

Jones believes in letting local government do what they think is best.

Lamberth said the local ordinances that Jones pointed to were not enforced and therefore underlined call for the legislation.

“I seriously oppose this bill. I am really so tired of everybody trying to legislate what we do in Davidson County,” Jones concluded. “Maybe we need to start legislating what y’all do.”

The subcommittee approved the measure on a voice vote, with Jones being the lone dissenter. The bill, which has yet to be taken up in a Senate committee, will head to the full House Criminal Justice Committee.

The criminal justice subcommittee deferred action on other marijuana-related bills including one that seeks to halt punishment for those with a valid medical marijuana card obtained from another state.