The Tennessee House of Representatives has approved a plan to lower the legal penalties for repeated drug possession and raise them for driving drunk six times or more.
Lawmakers voted 80-7 Thursday to approve House Bill 1478. The proposal was put forward by Sumner County Republican William Lamberth, a former prosecutor.
He says it’ll make sure people with numerous DUIs spend more time behind bars.
“And it allows for some mercy (for) those folks that are addicts that unfortunately get caught the third time with simple possession of drugs,” Lamberth says.
The plan would turn drug possession into a misdemeanor. That means users — even those convicted three times or more — would receive less than a year in jail.
Meanwhile, people with six DUIs could get up to 15 years in prison. The measure also forces people convicted of carjacking to serve more time.
The state Senate could vote on the proposal next week.
Further from The Tennessean:
The legislation stalled when it was discussed on the House floor on March 17, after Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, attempted to amend the bill to exclude harder drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine, from the changes to multiple convictions of simple possession. Stewart also tried to gut the bill and insert an amendment that would have made marijuana possession a misdemeanor.
Although both efforts from Stewart failed, the bill generated enough conversation and questions among House members that Lamberth delayed action on the legislation.
On Thursday the bill generated no discussion or debate before the chamber voted on it.