Alabama legislative session convenes; decriminalization bill poised to be reconsidered
On January 11, Alabama's 2022 legislative session began. Last year’s session saw a medical cannabis bill become law, and we are looking forward to continued cannabis reform this year.
So far, no bills have been filed to make changes to the medical program. However, Sen. Bobby Singleton (D) has again introduced a decriminalization bill. SB 160 would reduce the penalty for possession of less than two ounces to a violation and $250 fine for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $750 for third and subsequent offenses. Third and subsequent offenses would be considered a class D felony but would carry no jail time. Under current law, possession of cannabis, even in small amounts for personal use, is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $6,000. SB 160 also contains expungement provisions for past offenses. The bill is expected to receive a hearing by the Judiciary Committee soon.
Alabama is one of only 19 states that still jails its residents for simple possession of cannabis.
The Alabama Legislature overwhelmingly approved — and Gov. Kay Ivey signed — a medical cannabis bill! This made Alabama the 36th state with a full medical cannabis law.
On February 24, 2021, the Senate passed the bill in a 20-10 vote. The House followed suit on May 6 in a 68-34 vote, and the Senate swiftly concurred with the House’s changes to the details. On May 17, 2021, Gov. Ivey signed the bill into law.
We’ve provided a summary of the bill, Sen. Tim Melson’s Compassion Act — SB 46, here. While it is far better than the status quo, there are a number of provisions that are unnecessarily burdensome on patients. It steers pain patients to try opioids first, and it requires doctors to jump through hoops — including a four-hour course and a fee of up to $300 — that will depress participation. It also prohibits smoking, vaporization, and whole-plant cannabis, which drives up prices and denies some patients the treatment option that works best for them.
Decriminalization bill falls short
On March 3, 2021, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Sen. Bobby Singleton's (D) decriminalization bill — SB 149 — in a 6-3 vote. Unfortunately, the bill was indefinitely postponed and will not receive a vote. SB 149 would have reduced the penalty for possession of less than two ounces of cannabis to a violation carrying a $250 fine. It would also make possession of larger amounts a fine-only offense.
Alabama is one of only 19 states that still jails its residents for simple possession of cannabis.Personal use possession — of even the smallest amount — is currently a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $6,000.
While cannabis policy reform is sweeping the country, Alabama remains one of only 19 states that still imposes jail time for simple possession of cannabis. SB 160, which takes jail off the table and allows for expungements, has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and will next head to the Senate floor! Now is the perfect time to let your elected officials know you want them to catch up with the times.