Governor Bill Haslam speaking at a Gubenatorial dinner in 2010.

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Tennessee Gov. Signs Law Repealing Voter-Backed Decriminalization in Memphis and Nashvillle

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, has signed into law a bill that undoes recent cannabis decriminalization measures in the state’s two largest cities, the Tennessean reports.

Voters in Nashville and Memphis embraced the decriminalization of cannabis last year, both of which gave police officers the option of issuing tickets for small-time marijuana possession in place of making arrests. Republican state lawmakers, however, pushed a bill to the governor’s desk that says state law overrides local law in regards to Class B misdemeanors and above, under which cannabis possession falls. This means that those measures — and the Tennessee voters who backed them — are no longer valid.

Rep. William Lamberth, a Republican from Cottontown and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said of the decriminalization measures, “You can’t allow an officer at their whim to treat two different individuals who have potentially committed the same crime in drastically different ways depending on what that officer feels like at a given time.”

“You just can’t have cities creating their own criminal code, willy-nilly,” Lamberth said.

Reports have indicated that police in Nashville and Memphis did not take much advantage of the change in local laws, despite their popularity among the cities’ voters. In fact, the majority of marijuana incidents in Memphis were still resulting in misdemeanor arrests.

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