NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has signed legislation that repeals local laws that partially decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
Nashville and Memphis passed similar laws last fall that allow police officers the option to issue $50 civil citations instead of misdemeanor criminal tickets for possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana.
The laws were largely popular in the two cities, but proved less popular to those who live elsewhere.
Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) sponsored the legislation that nullifies those local ordinances.
“It’s bad policy to have a city decide it’s going to thumb its nose at a state law,” said Johnson. “We shouldn’t have cities enforcing state law differently than other cities. If you get caught, whether it’s simple possession of marijuana or commit any other crime, the punishment shouldn’t be any different than it is in a different city.”
Councilman Russ Pulley said the move by state lawmakers was less about policy and more about politics.
“The will of the people was to pass this bill,” Pulley said. “There was a 35-3 vote in the council. All of our Nashville delegation supported this, republican and democrat alike. So why would somebody who has no interest in this city at all stick their nose into it? Only one reason: it’s pure politics.”
Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) sees it as another example of the republican-led state house putting the screws to blue-leaning cities.
“I think you can look around Nashville and see Nashville doesn’t need help from the republican supermajority,” said Stewart. “It’s the rest of the state that I think the supermajority should pay attention to.”
Even though Metro police officers had the option to write civil citations in lieu of criminal tickets after Nashville’s ordinance as approved in September, they rarely did.
Since September, Metro officers issued 39 civil citations. In that same time, 1,082 criminal citations were handed out for simple possession.