Tennessee Lawmaker threatens to defund Nashville, Memphis over Marijuana Ordinance

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on September 21, 2016.

A Republican lawmaker from Middle Tennessee is threatening to introduce a bill to withhold state highway funds in Nashville and Memphis if they pass ordinances aimed at eliminating the criminal penalties for small time pot offenders.

State Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, said he does not want to file the bill, but will do it if the two cities approve pending ordinances. “That’s not a bill that I would want to file, but it’s a bill that I’m certainly willing to file if Nashville and Memphis continue down this extraordinarily reckless and unjust path,” Lamberth said.

State law says anyone with half an ounce or less of marijuana should be arrested and could be sent to jail for 11 months. Memphis and Nashville would make the $50 fine an alternative punishment. Not a good idea, Lamberth claimed. "Two people should not face a drastically different penalty just because the officer decides on the side of the road what their fate is going to be."

The lawmaker, who serves as the chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said his proposal could strip both Davidson and Shelby County of between $120 million and $130 million.

However, Councilman David Rosenberg, who brought the decriminalization ordinance to the table, said that Lamberth’s intimidation tactics would not prevent the Metro Council from moving forward the marijuana ordinance.

Lamberth’s threat comes as Nashville is set to vote on its ordinance on Tuesday, while the Memphis City Council is scheduled to make its decision on October 4. The ordinances would give people caught with small amounts of marijuana a chance to avoid a criminal record.

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