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Alabama Considers Fines Only, No Jail For Marijuana Possession

From a potential jail time to a fine. That’s a pretty big difference even though it’s not enough to be considered decrim

Merry Jane

From a criminal penalty and potential jail time to a fine. That’s a big difference. But it’s not enough to be considered real decriminalization. And that’s the change an Alabama state senator hopes to make for people caught with small amounts of marijuana, reports WAFF.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Alabama is one of just 19 states that still jails people for simple possession of cannabis, reports Ganjapreneur.

It costs around $60 to house a county jail inmate each day in Alabama. Lots of folks think that’s a complete waste of money. Besides, sending people to jail for having small amounts of weed puts unneeded pressure on jails.

Under current law in Alabama, being caught with marijuana — even for personal use — can get you a year in jail. And that’s for the first offense. Simple possession is a misdemeanor, which is a criminal charge.

No More Jail For Simple Possession?

Under Senate Bill 160 by Rick Singleton, more than two ounces of marijuana would still be a misdemeanor. But jail would be off the table.

If it’s the first offense, the maximum penalty would be a $250 fine. That would double to $500 for a second offense, and rise to $750 for a third offense.

A third offense for having more than two ounces would also result in a felony charge, instead of a misdemeanor, but no jail time.

No Criminal Charge For Under 2 Ounces

Those caught with under two ounces would still have that $250 fine, but no criminal charge. That’s because Singleton’s bill reduces it to a mere violation. That — unlike a misdemeanor — is not a criminal charge.

This bill would take away any jail time or probation for these minor offenses.

“I think that we’re already moving in the right direction for what Singleton is interested in doing here,” attorney John Brinkley told WAFF. ”And I don’t think that it’s something that it’s going to put a lot of people at risk because quite frankly, people have been using marijuana left and right and have been for generations.”

Brinkley added this would help people get jobs and move forward, since having less than two ounces won’t result in a criminal charge.

Progress In Alabama?

Singleto’s bill allows first- or second-degree possession convictions to be erased from criminal records after five years.

First-degree possession of marijuana is a felony under Alabama law, reports AL.com. People are charged with first-degree possession in one of two ways:

  • If they have marijuana for “other than personal use,” they are charged with a Class C felony. The law does not mention any specific quantity.
  • If they have marijuana for personal use after a previous conviction of possession for personal use, they are charged with a Class D felony.

Singleton’s bill reduces first-degree possession, first and second offenses (more than two ounces) to Class C misdemeanors.

Under the bill, on third convictions of two ounces or more, defendants would be charged with a Class D felony. They are fined up to $750 under Singleton’s bill.

Second-degree possession is a Class A misdemeanor under current law. A person is charged with second-degree possession if they have marijuana for personal use.

Second-degree possession applies for any quantities less than two ounces under Singleton’s bill. It is reduced to a violation punishable by a fine up to $250.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up Singleton’s bill at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16.

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