Alabama Senate Considering Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
In a 6-3 vote last week, Alabama’s Senate Judiciary Committee has allowed a cannabis crime redesignation bill to move onto the full senate to be further discussed.
If approved, Alabamians found in possession of marijuana by police will only be subject to a small fine instead of facing jail time. This is the same committee that is currently working to get a medical cannabis bill approved, which would legalize small amounts of medical marijuana to patients with approved diseases and conditions.
This bill has been considered by state legislators in years prior but has yet to be passed.
In 2019, Singleton proposed a similar bill that was scrapped without going for a vote. This new piece of legislation is significantly more progressive than Singleton’s last decriminalization bill, which stated that marijuana possession of two ounces or more would equate to a class C felony and up to 10 years in prison.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, a Democrat representing State Senate District 24, proposed the bill that would classify marijuana possession of two ounces or less as a violation instead of a misdemeanor, punishable by a $250 fine. Singleton's district includes Tuscaloosa and many of its surrounding municipalities southwest of the city.
Fines would increase if the offender is caught with marijuana after the original infraction. A second offense would result in a $500 fine, while a third offense is to be categorized as a felony, but only punishable by a fine of up to $750.
The bill also allows for these charges to be expunged from a person’s record after five years, as long as they are not convicted of any other crimes during that time.
Per SB 149, this proposal hopes to “revise the criminal penalties” that are previously stated in Alabama’s State Constitution. The State Constitution of Alabama, which is currently the longest in the world, is known for harsh penalties towards marijuana possession of any kind.
The law now states that marijuana-related convictions usually result in jail time. Multiple charges of marijuana possession, even if only for personal use, can result in a felony. However, in recent years, lawmakers have become more susceptible to lesser punishments like fines or community service.
As SB 149 moves to the Senate floor, locals may soon see Alabama’s notoriously strict cannabis laws become more lenient.