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Alabama Judiciary Committee Approves Cannabis Decriminalization Bill

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A cannabis decriminalization bill will head to the full Senate for approval in Alabama after the state’s Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation with a 6-3 vote. The proposal, sponsored by Democratic Senator Bobby Singleton, will make the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana a simple violation that carries a $250 fine. 

The bill also outlines: 

  • Possessing more than two ounces will result in a class C misdemeanor punishable with a $250 fine for the first offense, and a $500 fine for the second offense. 
  • If convicted with possession of more than two ounces for a third time, offenders will be hit with a class D felony punishable by a $750 fine with no threat of jail time. 

Changes from 2019 Alabama Cannabis Decriminalization Bill 

Sen. Singleton proposed an initial marijuana decriminalization bill in 2019 that never received a floor vote. 

That decriminalization proposal’s penalties were much more severe — stipulating that possession of greater than two ounce of marijuana would result in a class C felony punishable with up to ten years imprisonment. 

Under the 2021 proposal, persons convicted of possession would be allowed to petition in court to have their record expunged. Individuals would be granted clemency from possession-related charges if they don’t have any other felonies, misdemeanors, or violations within the last five years. 

Momentum Gaining 

The Judiciary Committee’s approval of the decriminalization bill will be sent to a vote one week after the Senate approved a bill to legalize a medical cannabis program in the state. That vote came on the heels of neighboring Mississippi implementing medical marijuana during the 2020 November election cycle despite Governor opposition

As for decriminalization efforts in Alabama, the governor’s office has indicated that they are open to further analyzing the legislation. Whether or not the deeply conservative state will be able to approve a medical program and decriminalize the substance remains to be seen.  

Contributed by Jack Berning

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