The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill to decriminalize cannabis possession in the state, the Associated Press reports. However, the bill sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Bobby Singleton admitted that the bill’s chances of passing the Legislature is “not bright considering it is an election year.”
The committee had approved an identical version of the bill last year, but it never made it to the floor in either chamber for a full vote. It passed the committee on a 5-4 vote.
“What we’re doing is basically trying to just make sure that we are not locking people up on marijuana charges.” – Singleton to the AP
Under the proposal, the first two convictions for possessing two ounces of cannabis or less would still be a misdemeanor but would be met with lower fines than current state law and would not include incarceration. Under current Alabama law, possession of any amount of cannabis for personal use is punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $6,000, according to NORML. The reform measure would replace those penalties with a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for the second offense. The third offense would be adjudicated as a felony punishable by a $750 fine but no jail time.
The proposal also includes expungement provisions for previous low-level cannabis charges. The measure would allow individuals convicted of possession to petition the courts to have their records expunged, so long as the person doesn’t have any other violations — except for minor traffic violations — misdemeanors or felonies in the preceding five years.
Alabama is one of just 19 states that still impose jail time for simple cannabis possession. A February 12 poll by Civiqs found that 62% of Alabamans support broad cannabis legalization in the state with 24% opposed.
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