Laws passed this year by Nashville and Memphis that gave police discretion to hand out lighter civil citations for possession of small amounts of marijuana violate state statute and therefore can't stand, according to Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.
Slatery issued that opinion on Wednesday, arguing that Tennessee’s two largest cities are pre-empted by multiple state laws on the issue — one that addresses drug control and another on the powers of district attorneys — making the ordinances unenforceable.
“A municipal ordinance that attempts to regulate a field that is regulated by state statute cannot stand if it is contradictory to state law,” he wrote.
His opinion comes after the Metro Council in September passed an ordinance — signed into law by Mayor Megan Barry — that gave Nashville police the option of reducing the penalty for people who are found in knowing possession or casual exchange of a half-ounce of marijuana or less to a $50 fine or 10 hours of community service. Police retained the option of charging a state misdemeanor.
The city of Memphis later passed a similar ordinance, which was modeled after legislation in other ...