Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates express concerns over legalization of recreational marijuana

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Five of the six Democratic candidates for the gubernatorial race commented about the legalization of recreational marijuana while on stage at Tuesday night's debate at Lyric Theatre.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said he would look at other states' experiences before supporting legalization in Alabama.

"There's going to be a lot of data over the next years that's going to be collected so that if and we can potentially move forward with this, we do so in a thoughtful, strategic way," Maddox said.

Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb didn't say she supports it outright but does want to take a hard look at state laws if marijuana is legalized for recreational use.

"I still believe marijuana can be considered a gateway drug," Cobb said. "But, I do not believe it deserves the egregious penalty that it has at this point in time, it just does not."

Former State Representative James Fields stressed the issue of sentencing on drug convictions too.

"Our overcrowding in prison didn't just happen overnight," Fields said. "We're constantly putting young men and women in prison for another nickel bag, for one little joint. They're spending the rest of their lives in prison. We're not doing anything in dealing with how we sentence people or sentence reform."

Former Gubernatorial Aide Doug Smith cites studies like the one supported by the American Lung Association. It says marijuana smoke isn't healthy.

"I would caution that the smoke from marijuana is known to be more dangerous than cigarettes," Smith said. "I think we should move with caution in that area."

Dothan Activist Christopher Countryman said he wants an organized plan in place before recreational marijuana legalization.

"We need to have an authority put in place over it to make sure we are monitoring and supervising the manufacturing process of marijuana," Countryman said.

So far, eight states have legalized recreational marijuana.

The Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates did agree unanimously on the legalization of "medical" marijuana. Some candidates are hopeful the legalization of marijuana for some uses could help relieve the prison overcrowding and underfunding issue in this state.