On Wednesday, two Alabama bills to lower penalties for marijuana possession went before House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
Birmingham-Democrat state Rep. Patricia Todd’s bill, HB272, which sought to change sentencing for possession of one ounce or less to a violation, and to add fines which would not appear on a person’s criminal record, even after repeat offense, failed to pass the House Judiciary Committee.
“I’m sad, but it’s an election year. And a lot of people who voted no told me to my face that they were going to vote yes. And I think the roll-call vote scared a lot of people (who) don’t want to look like they’re soft on drugs. But most people sitting there have no concept or understanding of marijuana,” Todd told the Associated Press.
The committee voted 7-5 against the bill, Moody-Republican state Rep. Jim Hill, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, believes the bill went too far in saying that possession would be only a violation even after repeat offenses.
“I think we’re probably headed toward either some type of either decriminalization or lesser emphasis being placed on marijuana, but it’s illegal. And to say that no matter how many times you use it, how many times it’s personal use, it never rises to the level of a misdemeanor, I just think that’s a mistake,” Hill told AL.com.
However, Montgomery-Republican state Sen. Dick Brewbaker’s bill, SB51, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, his bill seeks to up the minimum amount of marijuana needed to be convicted of trafficking from 2.2 pounds to 10 pounds.
“Nobody in here wants to hang felonies or drug conviction misdemeanors on a bunch of college kids,” Brewbaker told AL.com. “We’re arresting more people for marijuana than opioids.”
Brewbaker’s bill passed on a 6-4 vote, it now moves to the Senate floor, but will also need to be passed by the House to become a law.
Although the bill passed through the Senate committee, it already faces some opposition on the Senate floor. Rainbow City-Republican Sen. Phil Williams has gone on record saying he will filibuster the bill if, or when, it comes to the Senate floor.