Alabama Appleseed Urges House Committee to Reduce Marijuana Possession Penalties

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Montgomery, AL – Alabama Appleseed today asked the Alabama House Judiciary Committee to favorably report HB 269, which would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a fine only offense ($250/first offense & $500/subsequent offenses) and ensure that a conviction for possessing one ounce or less would not result in a criminal record.

“This legislation provides Alabama with the opportunity to stop needlessly ensnaring thousands of people, disproportionately African American, in the criminal justice system each year for the mere possession of marijuana,” said Frank Knaack, executive director of Alabama Appleseed. “This legislation is not about whether marijuana is good or bad – it’s about not turning otherwise law-abiding people into criminals. The Alabama legislature should take this modest step.”

According to data submitted to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, in 2015 more Alabamians were arrested for the possession of marijuana than any other drug offense, including trafficking.

“The impact of an arrest for a drug offense is often significant and can last for years,” Knaack continued. “Even an arrest for the possession of a small amount of marijuana can affect an individual’s access to student financial aid, jobs, and the polls. It’s time for Alabama to take a common sense response to the possession of marijuana.”

While African Americans and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates, in 2015 African Americans made up just 26.8% of Alabama’s population, yet made up more than 61% of all marijuana possession arrests.

“Like with many of Alabama’s criminal laws, the war on marijuana is enforced along color lines. This legislation offers a small opportunity to address this disparity,” Knaack concluded.

For additional information regarding HB 269, please read Alabama Appleseed’s fact sheet.

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