Alabama inching toward more humane marijuana policy
Last update: January 21, 2016
During Alabama’s 2015 legislative session, Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law a modest penalty-reduction bill. SB 67 creates a new class of felonies with lower penalties for several lower level crimes, including second convictions for marijuana possession. These convictions now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison rather than up to 10 years, along with lower maximum fines.
In addition to the passage of this limited step forward for Alabama’s marijuana policies, two other bills were introduced but not enacted this year. The first, SB 162, would have declared anyone with five nanograms of THC per milliliter in his or her blood guilty of driving under the influence, regardless of whether the person was actually impaired. Thankfully, this unscientific bill did not advance beyond the Senate. But it is regrettable that a bill to create a compassionate medical marijuana program — SB 326 — did not even pass in the Senate.
While progress has been slow, last year’s passage of Carly’s Law — a CBD-focused bill — and this year’s passage of SB 67 are good indicators of changing attitudes in the Yellowhammer State. Please take a moment to encourage your legislators to support a comprehensive medical marijuana bill next year. A 2004 poll by the Mobile Register and the University of South Alabama found that 75 percent of respondents supported legalizing marijuana for medical use under a doctor’s supervision.
Are you a patient, arrestee, clergy member, or member of law enforcement?
If you are supportive and are a patient with a serious medical condition who might benefit from medical marijuana, a loved one of such a patient, a person who has been arrested for possessing marijuana, a medical professional, a member of law enforcement or the clergy, or a lawyer or Ph.D. who might be interested in speaking out, please email [email protected] to see how you can be of special help. Be sure to include your address and nine-digit ZIP code so we can determine who your legislators are.
ACLU study shows Alabama’s harsh marijuana laws result in racially disproportionate arrest rates
Alabama has some of the harshest marijuana penalties in the country. Possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration. It’s clear these laws have not been successful, and new evidence shows that Alabama’s laws are not being evenly enforced.
A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Alabama are 4.4 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Alabama, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.