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Alabama House Committee Rejects Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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Marijuana law reform in Alabama is going nowhere fast. The House rejected a bill that would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Some lawmakers weren’t comfortable with changing the current law.

Right now, possession of a personal use amount of marijuana in Alabama is a Class A misdemeanor, the Montgomery Advertiser says. Conviction of simple marijuana possession could result in up to a year in jail. The proposed legislation would have resulted in a fine for those possessing 5 grams or less.

Representative Laura Hall, who sponsored the legislation, said, “We’re trying to prevent people from going to jail for a small amount of marijuana, which is a major issue. The idea is to create an opportunity to address the issue and address it in such a way that we’re reducing the number of people we put in jail for possession of marijuana.”

Alabama Appleseed conducted a study regarding the number of people charged with marijuana possession. In 2016 there were 2,351 people charged with possession.

Lawmakers opposing the bill said that just getting a “ticket” and arrested multiple times won’t put people in drug court.

Representative David Faulkner said, “Someone could be caught 50, 100, 200 times and they’re not going to a drug court. They’re just getting a traffic ticket.”

Law enforcement also opposed the legislation.

Representative Prince Chestnut said, “We’re not talking about people who sell marijuana illegally. We’re talking about people who smoke very small amounts. I just don’t see what the amount of manpower, police, prosecutorial services we put into this outside of trafficking, outside of distribution, I don’t see why there’s such a focus on a garden variety user of marijuana.”

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has also stalled in the Alabama Senate. The bill was debated but the debate closed without a vote. It will be discussed again, but a date to continue the discussion was not set.