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House bill passes to take away Metro marijuana decriminalization

PHOTO: MGN

The House passed a bill Thursday that would take away Metro Nashville's power to issue civil citations for small amounts of marijuana.

State Representative Sherry Jones said cities like Nashville are under attack.

"Metro Nashville, they're a big grown-up city now and they need to make their own choices and their own laws without interference from the General Assembly that thinks it's smarter than them," Jones said.

Jones is talking about a bill sponsored by William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, that would nullify a Nashville ordinance allowing people caught with small amounts of marijuana to face civil penalties instead of a misdemeanor charge.

"My goal in this bill was to ensure that justice is carried out and that it's not done so at the whim of an officer," Rep. Lamberth said. "As much as we trust our officers, but that it's done so in a fair and equal weight."

Lamberth's bill passed the house over the objections of Nashville lawmakers, who say the state should stop interfering with the rights of local governments.

"My concern is about how we decrease persons going to prison for small amounts of marijuana unnecessarily," said Representative Harold Love, D-Nashville. "This does not allow Nashville to make judgments about what's good for Nashville."

Lamberth said in the past he's supported legislation reducing penalties for some drug offenses but thinks the laws should be applied equally across the state.

"If we're going to reduce laws on certain crimes and reduce penalties on certain crimes in this state, we need to do that state wide and apply it to all citizens equally," Lamberth said.

"If you want to use the argument of making everything uniform across the entire state, then we need to go from the bottom to the top of the code and make everything uniform across the state not just the parts that give you irritation, which is the marijuana piece, " said Representative Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis.

The bill passed the house 65 to 28. Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, voted against the bill.

It could have a dramatic impact drug enforcement in Nashville if it wins final approval and could be debated in the Senate as early as Monday.

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