Legislation to decriminalize the possession of personal amounts of marijuana has been passed unanimously by an Alabama Senate committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee recently voted 11 to 0 to pass the marijuana decriminalization bill, sending it towards a vote by the full Senate. The vote marks a massive shift increase in support from just last year, when the committee passed the measure 6 to 4 (though it eventually stalled in the House). If passed by the full Senate, the measure would then need to pass the House of Representatives before it can be sent to Governor Kay Ivey (R) for consideration.
Under the proposed law, those caught possessing no more than an ounce of marijuana would be hit with, at most, a $250 fine for the first two offenses, and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses. As noted by Marijuana Moment, possession of more than an ounce but less than two ounces would be considered a class A misdemeanor, while possession of more than two ounces would be a class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The legislation could “decrease receipts” for the state government’s general fund from fines, according to a state fiscal note, but could also “decrease the obligations of local jails, the State General Fund, the district attorneys, the Department of Corrections, community corrections programs, and the Board of Pardons and Paroles by an undetermined amount dependent upon the number of persons charged with and convicted of the offenses provided by this bill and the penalties imposed.”
“It’s encouraging that even in one of the most conservative states in the country, lawmakers are recognizing that jailing marijuana consumers doesn’t make sense,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.
“North Carolina and Mississippi enacted similar reforms back in the 1970s,” she said. “Even a brief jail stay can be traumatic—or even deadly—and can disrupt housing and employment, with devastating consequences.”
The measure was introduced last month by Senator Bobby Singleton (D), who called the state’s current laws arbitrary.
“We can’t continue to send people to prison for petty crimes that are definitely nonviolent,” he told WHNT News 19 last month.
Below is a look at Alabama’s current marijuana possession laws:
Any Amount Deemed for Personal Use:
Penalty: Misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail and/or a $6,000 fine
Other than Personal Use:
Penalty: Felony with 1 year and 1 day in prison mandatory with a 10 year maximum, and/or a $15,000 fine.
For further information on Alabama’s marijuana laws – including penalties for distribution and cultivation – click here. For recent updates to Alabama’s marijuana possession laws and other Alabama-related stories, click here.