A bill recently filed by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Currently, possession of marijuana in that amount is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by jail time and fines. Todd’s bill, HB257, would make it simply a ticket offense.
“Possession charges for people clog up a lot of our court services,” Todd said. “This would help eliminate some of that bottleneck.”
The bill would specifically lower penalties for recreational users, not dealers who may be in possession of much higher quantities. Further, Todd believes the change would create much needed revenue for the state as offenders are forced to pay tickets.
“I believe it’s safer than alcohol,” Todd said. “If people could take their emotions out of it, I think most people would agree with me.”
Todd noted that she has spoken with law enforcement officials and most are supportive of the measure, specifically because it takes a lot of the work out of processing and jailing non-violent marijuana offenders, though she expects opposition from area district attorneys.
Todd added that she based her bill off of a similar bill passed in Georgia, which makes possession of an ounce punishable by only a ticket. In Georgia, the law calls for arresting anyone caught with more than an ounce – Todd’s legislation retracts that language, making simple possession penalties no worse than speeding tickets. Todd even added that speeding is likely more dangerous than marijuana.
“It’s a better tactic than what we’re currently doing,” Todd said. “We need to deal in reality.”
While her bill does not specifically address medical marijuana, Todd believes that the state could make substantive moves in providing marijuana-based treatments to Alabama residents. CBD oil, which moved into the public lexicon with the passing of “Carly’s Law” and the impending passage of “Leni’s Law,” could be better manufactured to help desperate people if Auburn University were allowed to begin growing marijuana and looking at ways to extract the needed chemical for the medicine, Todd believes.
The bill is not slated for a committee hearing yet, but it will likely make it onto the docket in the coming weeks.