Nashville issues legal statement on marijuana law after State AG’s opinion

FILE-In this Friday, April 22, 2016 file photo, a marijuana bud is seen at a medical marijuana facility in Unity, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
FILE-In this Friday, April 22, 2016 file photo, a marijuana bud is seen at a medical marijuana facility in Unity, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Last week, the Tennessee Attorney General issued a statement saying city ordinances that decriminalize small amounts of marijuana violate state law.

In September, the Metro Council approved a bill in a 35-3 vote that allows officers the discretion to give someone a $50 fine or community service if they are found with less than a half ounce of marijuana.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery says the new statute can’t stand.

“By giving police officers the option to issue a municipal citation instead of a criminal warrant for marijuana possession, the city ordinances bypass the district attorney general’s authority to prosecute the offense under the Drug Control Act,” Slatery said.

However, Metro Nashville’s Director of Law says while they “understand his position,” they believe they “have a good faith legal argument that the ordinance is not preempted by state law.”

Jon Cooper’s statement reads in full: “The Metro Council overwhelming passed the ordinance creating a civil penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana. We have reviewed the Attorney General’s opinion and understand his position. However, we believe we have a good faith legal argument that the ordinance is not preempted by state law. At this point, we do not believe a change in the police department’s enforcement practice is warranted.”