Lawmaker Files Bill To Lessen Marijuana Penalties

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-The launch of legalized marijuana in Colorado has captured national attention this week, but a newly filed bill right here in Alabama aims to lessen penalties for marijuana possession, a move opponents say is a smaller step in the same direction.

State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) pre-filed HB 76 at the state capitol, but critics say the legislation has virtually zero chance of passing in solidly conservative Alabama.

Among other things, the proposal would change second-degree marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a violation punishable by monetary fine only. The bill also would strip an existing provision that makes repeat second-degree offenses a felony. Current state law defines first-degree marijuana possession as possessing marijuana for reasons other than personal use, such as drug dealing, or more than one second-degree conviction.

"I don't think the people of Alabama are ready to go there right now," said State Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison), who opposes the bill. "Many of us do believe it can open the door to that drug culture...There are many in the legislature and many in the law enforcement community that have grave concerns about the expansion and legalization of marijuana."

WHNT News 19 did reach out to Rep. Todd, but she was not available for comment. Todd filed a marijuana legalization bill in 2013, but that legislation never made it out of committee.

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