Tennessee’s House of Representatives has passed a bill that, if approved, would negate cannabis decriminalization policies enacted in Nashville and Memphis, the Memphis Daily News reports. The measure, which passed the body 65-28, aims to clarify that state law overrides local regulations involving Class B misdemeanors and above – which includes drug policies.
Last year Memphis’ City Council passed an ordinance that allows police officers to issue a $50 ticket for possessing less than 1 ounce of cannabis, rather than arrest the offender and charge them with a Class B misdemeanor. According to a Tennessean report, last year Nashville passed its own measure imposing a $50 fine and 10 hours of community service for possession of a half-ounce or less of cannabis.
Republican state Rep. William Lamberth, a former assistant district attorney from Sumner County and the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation creates equity in Tennessee‘s criminal justice system. Lamberth also noted that since Nashville’s decriminalization measure was passed just 37 people have been issued the civil infraction while 888 people had been charged with the misdemeanor.
“You can’t have rich people being held to a different standard than poor people. You can’t have people from the good part of town being held to a different standard than the people from the bad part of town,” he said in the report. “You can’t have people that look one way be treated differently than people who look another way. You just can’t have that, at least not in the country I love.”
Democratic state Rep Sherry Jones argued that the “legislation is not about cannabis” rather about whether lawmakers “support or don’t support local control.”
“If you want to take local control away from your governments, this is the bill to do that,” she said.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill today.