Despite Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s recent opinion, suggesting that the marijuana decriminalization ordinances passed by Nashville and Memphis were worthless and could not stand, Nashville officials have refused to bow down to the state’s conservative values and will continue to let pot offenders off with a slap on the wrist.
On Monday, Metro Law Director Jon Copper issued a statement reaffirming the city’s plan to continue issuing fines to those people caught in possession of marijuana rather than sticking them in the Davidson County jail.
"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," Cooper said. "At this point, we do not believe a change in the police department’s enforcement practice is warranted.”
It was just last week that Tennessee AG Slatery began throwing blows at the two largest metropolitan areas in the state for their willingness to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with the possession of up to a half-ounce of weed. The state’s leading prosecutor arrogantly penned an opinion essentially telling Nashville and Memphis that their newly passed ordinances were “cute,” but that they meant nothing in the grand scheme of criminal justice because they go against the grain of state law.
“A municipal ordinance that attempts to regulate a field that is regulated by state statute cannot stand if it is contradictory to state law,” Slatery wrote. “An ordinance that makes possession of one-half ounce or less of marijuana a municipal offense and allows an officer to issue a municipal civil citation in lieu of a criminal warrant is not permissible."
“If a police officer is allowed to issue a municipal civil citation, in lieu of a criminal warrant, for the offense of marijuana possession, a district attorney general is unable to exercise his or her discretion to prosecute the offense as a state law offense under the Drug Control Act,” Slatery added.
Although Memphis officials cowered to the state, immediately suspending its ordinance, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry's administration made it perfectly clear that it would not vacate its progressive path until the state legally forced them to do so. A spokesperson for Barry’s office said, at the time, that the AG’s opinion was under review by the city's legal team. It now appears that the review has been completed and Mayor Barry is standing at her office window with a middle finger aimed directly at the Capitol building.
Metro Legal suggests that the city’s marijuana decriminalization ordinance is just as acceptable as other ordinances that differ from state law, such as those pertaining to seat belts and littering.
A lawsuit will likely emerge.