Alabama Senator introduces bill to decriminalize some marijuana possession

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- An Alabama senator is proposing a rewrite of Alabama’s marijuana possession laws, arguing the penalties are too costly for a nonviolent, petty crime.

Alabama Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, introduced SB 98 on Tuesday, seeking to end prison sentences for marijuana possession of less than 2 ounces

Under Alabama law, there is no minimum drug amount attached to the charge of marijuana possession in the first degree – and what police charge as non-personal use. The current crime is a felony that carries a year to 10 years in prison.

Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro

Singleton wants to change the law, creating a minimum of 2 ounces of marijuana as the standard for possession in the first degree and making it a Class C felony,  1 to 10 years in prison.

Singleton’s bill would also create a system of fines for marijuana possession of less than an ounce. Under the proposal, a person charged with possessing less than an ounce of marijuana would face a fine of $250, and the fine would double on the third offense.

The bill also establishes a new standard for marijuana possession in the second degree, which is based on possession of more than an ounce, but less than 2 ounces of marijuana. The charge would be considered a Class D felony, which includes a sentencing range of 1 to 5 years, but to be served in a community corrections facility rather than prison.

Singleton told WHNT News 19 today he wants to end the hefty penalties people face == including fines and prison -- for a nonviolent marijuana possession charges.

Singleton said current law is contributing to prison overcrowding.

“We can’t continue to send people to prison for petty crimes that are definitely nonviolent,” he said.

Singleton said current law also harms people’s ability to find work after prison. He said would-be workers struggle to find jobs because a felony record prevents a person from obtaining a carpenter’s license and applying for other kinds of work.

A similar measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, but never got a vote in the full Senate.

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