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Memphis Marijuana Ordinance illegal according to state attorney general

by: Kristin Leigh Updated:

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UPDATE: 5:20 p.m.

FOX13 reached out to the city for comment: 

"We have received the attorney general’s opinion on the marijuana ordinance, and are in the process of reviewing it to determine how we will move forward.  For now, we are suspending enforcement of the city ordinance,” Ursula Madden, Chief Communications Officer. 

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An opinion issued Wednesday by Tennessee's Attorney General said the Memphis City Council's ordinance that decriminalizes marijuana possession is illegal.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in the opinion the ordinance conflicts with the provisions of the state's Drug Control Act and the State's ability to enforce the law.

"The ordinance cannot stand because it impedes the inherent discretion and responsibility of district attorneys general to prosecute violations of the Drug Control Act," Slatery wrote in the opinion.

The opinion does not immediately disqualify the city's marijuana ordinance. But if the Memphis City Council does not choose to remove the ordinance and re-criminalize marijuana, the battle between the city and the state will likely play out in court.


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State Senator Brian Kelsey, a Republican from Shelby County who represents the State's 31st Senatorial district, and Representative Ron Lollar of Bartlett, requested a review by the State of recent marijuana ordinances passed in both Memphis and Nashville.

"What the attorney general said is that the law has been pretty clear for over 130 years," Kelsey said in an interview with FOX13. "It's up to state government to pass criminal laws and to repeal them. In essence, the city's trying to repeal a state criminal law."

Kelsey added that he's not opposed to a discussion about decriminalizing marijuana.

"We want to have a much more thorough and thoughtful conversation and not just rush into anything the way that it looks like perhaps the city council has," Kelsey said.

FOX13 is working to get reaction from Memphis City Council Members. Watch FOX13 News at 5:00 for the latest developments.