Sorry, Nashville and Memphis.
On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed legislation that rescinds recently passed ordinances reducing the penalties for simple marijuana possession in Nashville and Memphis.
Rolling back the votes of the Nashville Metro Council and ignoring the unanimous decision by the Memphis City Council to decriminalize marijuana in their municipalities, Gov. Haslam signed the regressive H.B. 173. A ‘Partisan Bill’ sponsored by eight Republican senators, House Bill 173 only received one “Yea” vote from a Democrat – coming from Reginald Tate (D- Memphis).
More than a little upset that local policymakers in Nashville and Memphis snubbed Tennessee’s punitive marijuana penalties last year, the House first passed H.B. 173 on March 23, with a vote of 65-28. And four days later, the Senate easily passed the bill by a vote of 26-5.
No friend of democracy or progressive policy, HB 173 summarizes who can do what in the state of Tennessee:
“No county, city, town, municipality, or metropolitan form of government has the authority by ordinance, resolution, regulation, or other local law to enact or adopt a sanction for conduct involving a drug or other substance if the sanction for that contact is established.”
While the majority of Tennessee lawmakers bowed before the profitable altar of prohibition, at least one Senator in this ugly saga stood up for common sense, according to US News & World Reports. Sen. Lee Harris, a Democrat from Memphis, admonished his fellow senators for their lack of foresight. “Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate, if we prevent cities from taking action in this area, we can rest assured that there will be more Tennesseans that are in prison on terms that are out of proportion with their crime.”
The end result of this legislative fiasco … police in Nashville and Memphis could soon find themselves wasting their limited time on minor marijuana infractions. Handing out costly citations for minor offenses to hard-working citizens, for simply carrying small amounts of marijuana will again be the norm.
One step forward — two steps back.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett