Today, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved SB 98, which would reduce the penalty for possessing up to an ounce of cannabis to a fine. The bill now heads to the Senate floor. Don’t let this chance to stop jailing cannabis consumers pass the state by.
Currently, anyone found possessing marijuana in Alabama faces up to a year in jail. Under SB 98, people caught with one ounce or less would be punished by a fine of up to $250 for the first two offenses and up to a $500 fine on all future offenses. Twenty-four states, including neighboring Mississippi, have stopped jailing adults for possession of small amounts of marijuana. It’s time for Alabama to reform outdated laws that do nothing to make the state safer. A recent report from the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Southern Poverty Law Center showed that marijuana prohibition is a costly and ineffective law that harms thousands of people. Enforcing prohibition costs the state roughly $22 million a year when you add up the costs incurred by the police, courts, and corrections.
Please contact your lawmakers today, and then get the word out by forwarding this email to friends and family. Together we can stop arresting Alabamans for possessing a substance safer than alcohol.
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.