MPP wins First Amendment lawsuit against state of Alabama
Last update: June 23, 2017
In 2016, MPP joined forces with the Institute for Justice to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of Alabama, alleging the state wass unconstitutionally pricing MPP and MPP Legislative Counsel Maggie Ellinger-Locke out of exercising our First Amendment rights.
The suit was settled in April 2017, when Alabama agreed to make its lobbyist training class available online, instead of requiring Ms. Ellinger-Locke to travel to Montgomery before she could send a single email to a lawmaker. You can learn more about the suit pre-settlement by checking out this op-ed by lead counsel for the suit, Paul Sherman.
Now, thanks to the successful work on the part of the Institute for Justice, we can bring our important work to Alabama as we seek to improve the state’s marijuana policies. Please ask your lawmakers to lessen penalties for people possessing small amounts of marijuana, and bring badly needed reform to the state.
Little momentum for change in the legislature
The 2017 legislative session opened in February and runs through the end of May; but the prospects for improved marijuana policies remain limited. Rep. Patricia Todd filed HB 269, which would eliminate criminal penalties for first offense possession of under an ounce of marijuana, but it is unlikely to receive a hearing. That is why it is essential that sensible Alabamans contact their lawmakers and ask them to enact reforms.
In 2014 and 2016, lawmakers enacted low-THC laws, the latter of which offered an affirmative defense for use of certain cannabis oils by patients who suffer from specified debilitating conditions that produce seizures that are resistant to conventional medicine, provided the patient’s doctor recommends this course of treatment. While this is a positive step in the right direction, legislators need to hear from constituents who want to see a full medical cannabis program brought to the state. You can ask your lawmakers to enact a comprehensive, compassionate medical cannabis law here.
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.