We had exciting news come out of Tennessee over the last couple months as two of the most well-known cities, Nashville and Memphis, enacted ordinances that would allow law enforcement to issue a civil citation with a fine of $50 or community service hours, rather than arresting citizens with half an ounce or less of marijuana. At the time, there was already some issues on whether or not law enforcement would actually choose to use this new alternative or if they would simply continue to make arrests as required under state law.
Unfortunately, now that both of those ordinances are supposed to be in effect, Attorney General Herbert Slatery has released his opinion on the subject, which is that these ordinances are simply not enforceable under state law. He claims that the laws allow for local ordinances “as are necessary to secure the safety, health, good order, peace, comfort, protection, and convenience of the state or municipality” – however, he also points out that local ordinances cannot come in direct conflict with state laws – like those surrounding cannabis.
“We have received the attorney general’s opinion on the marijuana ordinance, and are in the process of reviewing it to determine how we will move forward. For now, we are suspending enforcement of the city ordinance.” – Memphis City Council
In response to this, Memphis City Council has currently suspended their ordinance until they are able to determine whether or not they will be able to carry it out. Nashville, on the other hand, has decided that their ordinance will remain in place while they review the attorney general’s opinion – considering it is exactly that, an opinion, at least for now. The city may be able to argue that since it is at the officer’s’ discretion and it does not attempt to repeal any current laws, that it does not exactly conflict with state law, but rather gives an alternative.
“For the time being, as we await additional information, I will continue to defer to the wisdom of the Metropolitan Council in regard to the marijuana ordinance it passed in September,” Anderson said by email.
With the growing support for marijuana reform throughout the country, it really shouldn’t be such a problem for the state. After all, they are behind compared to many cities and states across the nation who have enacted laws to decriminalize and even legalize the possession of marijuana. Unfortunately, it seems that Tennessee is one of those states that is going to keep trying to enforce prohibition for as long as they are able – regardless of what the majority of citizens wish to see. Hopefully they will be able to come to some sort of agreement allowing these ordinances to stay in place, helping to progress things just a little.