Alabama About to Take Step Toward Decriminalization of Marijuana?
There is hope for those who have been advocating for reform of Alabama’s marijuana possession laws. In a bill filed in the Alabama legislature, penalties for simple possession of marijuana would be lessened significantly going forward. This blog post will examine Alabama’s current marijuana laws as well as how they may change should this legislation become law.
Today, possession of any amount of marijuana is Possession is charged as Possession of Marijuana 2d degree. POM II is a class A misdemeanor, with a potential punishment of up to one year in jail for even a first offense. Along with that potential jail time is a mandatory 6 month driver license suspension that is implemented at the state level; not even the sentencing judge can give relief from license suspension. Alabama is one of the few states that still punishes simple possession of marijuana this harshly.
Possession of Marijuana 1st Degree occurs when marijuana is possessed “for other than personal use” (a vague term that has given more than one judge and jury problems trying to define) or if a person has a prior conviction for possession second degree. Possession first degree is a felony and carries a sentence of between one and ten years in prison.
Trafficking in marijuana and distribution of marijuana, both felony offenses, would not be affected by the new laws.
The proposed new laws would create a new offense of Possession of Marijuana 3d Degree for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. POM III would be a violation, meaning that no jail time would be involved and that the punishment would be payment of a fine (and, presumably, steep court costs.)
It is about time that Alabama woke up and realized that our marijuana laws are drastically behind the times and that law enforcement and court resources can be put to much better use than today. I look at this effort as a positive step toward easing the burden on law enforcement and the court system. The legislature should go a step further and allow those with misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses to clear their record so that they are not tainted for life for possession of a plant that is widely becoming legal nationwide.
For once I am encouraged and even optimistic about our legislature.