Local Cannabis Possession Reforms Advance In Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The Tuscaloosa, Alabama City Council Public Safety Committee advanced a provision to lower penalties for low-level cannabis crimes to a ticket instead of the maximum penalty of 180 days in jail.

Full story after the jump.

The Tuscaloosa, Alabama City Council Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved a measure proposed by the city’s police chief that would lower penalties for low-level cannabis crimes to a simple citation, according to a Patch report. Under the measure, second-degree cannabis possession, improper identification, possession of drug paraphernalia, and other low-level misdemeanor offenses would be reduced to citations.

Under current law, those charged with second-degree possession of cannabis face a maximum penalty of 180 days in the county jail and a fine not to exceed $500.

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley said law enforcement officials believe low-level cannabis possession and other crimes covered under the proposal “can be handled with a ticket” and would save officers time. However, he told the council that individuals who “fight or run” from police would still go to jail for the offense.

“Officers will still use officer discretion and it’s just like an open beverage [citation] we do now. It’s the same basis as that, so we’re hoping if you do have a dime bag in your car, we’ll pull you over and we’ll give you a ticket and you go on your way.” – Blankley to Patch

Under state law, those found guilty of misdemeanor cannabis possession face up to a year in prison and fines up to $6,000; the state spends $22 million in taxpayer money every year enforcing cannabis laws, the report says.

Blankley told Patch that he thinks the council “is in favor” of the proposal.

“We’re always trying to be innovative at the police department and this has always been something that’s weighed on us in the past,” he said. “Not as many people will actually go to jail and there is always overcrowding, so we think this will be much better for the community.”

The measure is expected to be considered by the full council next week and City Attorney Scott Holmes said that if it passes, the reforms would take effect June 1 or July 1.

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