MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — President Joe Biden is calling on governors to follow his move in pardoning federal marijuana possession convictions, but it’s not likely to happen in Alabama.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s Communications Director Gina Maiola says pardons are granted on an individual case-by-case basis by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, and “even if the board could grant an across-the-board pardon, it would only impact a very small fraction, less than one percent of those currently serving sentences in our state.”
According to the Alabama Sentencing Commission, marijuana possession is the fourth most common felony of conviction in the state, but it’s one with lifelong consequences.
“That conviction is just a scarlet letter on your record forever, which interferes with good jobs, educational opportunities, certain housing opportunities,” Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice Executive Director Carla Crowder said.
Crowder hopes state leaders take note of the president’s move. She’d like to see decriminalization efforts in the legislature, and even changes to the governor’s limited pardon powers.
“In a lot of states, governors have more leeway in pardoning people. I would love to see more legislation that permits governors, not just Gov. Ivey but all elected governors going forward to look at situations like this and have the statutory authority to issue these pardons,” Crowder said.
Alabama Cannabis Coalition President H Marty Schelper says she thinks the state made the right move legalizing medical marijuana but thinks it’s time to go further.
“The control and regulation and arrests of cannabis are just destroying peoples’ lives,” Schelper said.
Schelper says she’d like to see voters support candidates who could make a change to marijuana laws. Her coalition has endorsed the 60 libertarians up for election this November — the first time their party has been on the ballot in 20 years.
“They believe in the mission and goals of the Alabama Cannabis Coalition, which are the citizens right to home grow, expungement of nonviolent cannabis convictions, decriminalization and the legalization of cannabis in the state of Alabama,” Schelper said.
It’s estimated the president’s federal pardon will impact roughly 6,500 people with convictions.