This Monday, January 28, AL.com will be moderating a marijuana law panel in Birmingham. The event will be an educational forum for policymakers to discuss Alabama’s marijuana laws. If you are interested in going, please RSVP as space is limited.
Here are the details for the forum:
What: Alabama marijuana law panel
When: 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on January 28, 2019
Where: Harbert Center, 2019 4th Ave. N, Birmingham, AL 35203
A report put out by two of the participants, Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, highlights the fiscal and social costs of prohibition. Enforcing these failed marijuana laws costs the state millions of dollars and needlessly harms thousands of Alabamans. Please write your legislators, asking them to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession. Then, share the action with your friends and family. Together we can bring sensible marijuana laws to Alabama.
The Alabama House Judiciary Committee will be considering a bill that would decriminalize less than one ounce of marijuana.
Currently, Alabamans caught with small amounts of marijuana can be sent to jail for up to one year. These bills, HB 272 and SB 251, would change the penalty for possessing less than one ounce of marijuana to a violation instead of a misdemeanor. That means the penalty would be paying a fine of up to $250 instead of facing jail time.
There is real momentum to pass this bipartisan bill this year. One of the sponsors, Rep. Patricia Todd, said, “I haven’t talked to one person who is against.”
If you are an Alabama resident, please ask your representatives and senators to support HB 272 and SB 251.
Recently when attempting to lobby for marijuana policy reform in Alabama, MPP legislative counsel Maggie Ellinger-Locke discovered that she would have to travel to the Yellowhammer State and take an ethics class before she could speak with any lawmakers on the subject. This is a clear violation of free speech, and Institute for Justice is helping us fight back.
Alabama Today reports:
At issue is an Alabama law requiring all registered lobbyists to attend an ethics class offered only four times a year and in only one place – Montgomery.
Part of Ellinger-Locke’s job, says IJ Senior Attorney Paul Sherman in a recent op-ed, is to talk with legislators and government officials in nearly a dozen states on ways to make marijuana policy “more just, sensible and humane.”
“Unfortunately for her,” Sherman writes, “all lobbyists in Alabama are required to take an in-person ethics class.” The problem is, Ellinger-Locke lives in Arlington, Virginia and works at the MPP headquarters in Washington DC.
Sherman also points out that mayors, city and county council members, as well as members of local boards of education, are each required to take similar training – a program that could easily be offered online.
Nevertheless, Sherman adds that such a requirement is not only bad public policy but also unconstitutional. That is why IJ filed a First Amendment challenge in federal court.
“If a person wants to talk to an elected official about a matter of public policy,” Sherman concludes, “they shouldn’t have to take a government-mandated class. Instead, the only thing they should need is an opinion.”
We will post updates as they happen.
In April, SB 162, introduced by Sen. Arthur Orr, passed the Alabama Senate. It now awaits action in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. This bill would declare anyone with five nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood guilty of driving under the influence — regardless of whether the person was actually impaired!
Although intoxicated driving should not be tolerated, knee jerk ideas like per se limits for THC are unethical, unscientific, and unnecessary. Alabama already criminalizes impaired driving. This bill would unfairly target medical marijuana patients who could have higher levels of THC in their blood without being impaired.
Recent peer-reviewed studies have concluded that low levels of active THC can remain in a person’s system long after the intoxicating effects of THC have worn off — sometimes for several days. THC levels can even increase in a person’s bloodstream days after consuming marijuana, but without the person being impaired. SB 162 would therefore result in individuals who are not impaired to be found guilty of DUI-D.
If you are an Alabama resident, please email your representative and ask him or her to oppose this bill.
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee of the Alabama Legislature approved a bill — SB 326 — that would create a comprehensive medical marijuana program for Alabama’s seriously ill residents. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, would allow qualified patients to possess and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana should their doctors recommend it. It would also create a system of registered medical marijuana providers to ensure patients have safe and reliable access. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
If you are an Alabama resident, please urge your senator to support SB 326!
This is the first time that the Alabama Senate has considered a comprehensive medical marijuana bill. With SB 326, Alabama has the opportunity to be the first southern state to join 23 other states and Washington, D.C. in allowing its seriously ill residents to access the medicine their doctors recommend.
Unfortunately, Sen. Jabo Waggoner, has vowed to kill the bill.
Earlier this month, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law SB 174, known as Carly’s Law. This law creates an affirmative defense for patients suffering from debilitating epileptic conditions — or their caregivers — for the possession and use of marijuana extracts that are high in CBD (a component of marijuana). It is a strong endorsement by Alabama lawmakers of the medical benefits of marijuana. Unfortunately, the law suffers from several fatal flaws, rendering it ineffective.
Unfortunately, by being limited to low-THC extracts and patients with epilepsy, SB 174 leaves the vast majority of patients behind. Even patients with epilepsy are extremely unlikely to get relief. Carly’s Law requires a “prescription” for the legal use of medical marijuana. Yet “prescribing” a federally illegal substance may jeopardize a doctor’s federal license. Meanwhile, a “recommendation” is protected under the First Amendment.
By merely providing an affirmative defense, the law won’t protect patients from being arrested and dragged into court. Finally, this law relies on the University of Alabama at Birmingham to implement the medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, based on what we have already experienced in other states, this university hospital-based approach is extremely unlikely to ever get off the ground.
Last week, Alabama joined the growing list of states considering taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol this year. Sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), HB 550 would remove all criminal penalties for possession of marijuana by adults. The proposal was referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Rep. Todd’s bill, the Alabama Cannabis and Hemp Reform Act of 2013, would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to 12 plants in a secure space. It would tax marijuana similarly to alcohol and would task the Alabama Department of Revenue with licensing retail outlets and regulating the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over.
In addition to allowing a regulated and taxed marijuana industry, HB 550 would also set up a medical marijuana program. The bill would authorize the medical use of marijuana for qualifying patients who have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions by their physicians.
If you are an Alabama resident, please contact your legislators now and ask them to support HB 550!
A national Rasmussen poll released today indicates that 47% of American adults answered "yes" to this question: "To help solve America’s fiscal problems, should the country legalize and tax marijuana?" Forty-two percent disagreed, and a whopping 10% were undecided.
Forty-seven percent is impressive, especially when one considers that this figure could grow to 57% if we're able to persuade the undecided folks to come to our side through positive news coverage, paid advertising, and person-to-person contact.
The 47% is a national figure, which means support for taxing marijuana is surely higher in states like Colorado and Washington, both of which will have marijuana-taxation initiatives on their ballots this November 6. (And, of course, support would necessarily be lower than 47% in states like Alabama and Mississippi.)
The same Rasmussen poll also indicates that only 42% of Americans "favor so-called 'sin taxes' on sodas and junk food."
In case you're thinking that the 47% figure is a decrease from previous polling ... it's not. The national Gallup poll, released in October, found that 50% of American adults "think the use of marijuana should be made legal."
So, these are two different marijuana questions. It makes sense that (slightly) more people are comfortable with the simple use of marijuana than the overall legalization and taxation of marijuana — which would involve retail establishments, large-scale grow operations, and maybe even advertising.
I'm very excited about the 47% figure, and I'm looking forward to working with our allies to pass the Colorado ballot initiative in just seven months.
The federal law barring medical use of marijuana has already cost Mara Lynn Williams her husband, and may now cost her her home as well.
Williams, 56, said she had no idea her husband, Royce, was growing marijuana on their 40-acre property in Chilton County, Alabama until federal authorities raided their land and found 408 plants growing several hundred yards from their house.
Then in May, Royce Williams committed suicide, rather than serve a potentially lengthy prison sentence for the federal drug charges he was facing. His wife, who works as a nurse at a Montgomery hospital, said Royce smoked marijuana because it was the only medication that helped ease the chronic pain he suffered as a result of several surgeries.
Now the Montgomery Advertiser is reporting that the U.S. attorney’s office plans to seize the Williams’ property – including the house still occupied by Mara Lynn, who in 2003 was diagnosed with breast cancer that spread to her liver, lungs and bone, but is now in remission.
“It is not morally right,” the Advertiser quoted Mara Lynn Williams as saying. “My husband paid with his life. What else do they want?”
According to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, “[Royce Williams’] death, which ended the criminal case, had no effect on the ongoing civil case … The bottom line is, we don’t want people to benefit from criminal activity.”
Benefit? I suppose seeing her husband suffer a bit less because of the relief he got from medical marijuana might count as a benefit, but doesn’t driving him to suicide make up for that? Must she be made homeless, too – on top of losing more than $18,000 cash, vehicles, computers and other belongings the Advertiser says were seized by the Feds?
To help us change these cruel laws, go to MPP’s Federal Action Center.