Cannabis in Alabama

For the greatest part, cannabis has been illegal in Alabama for all purposes since 1931. First-time possession of personal amounts is a misdemeanor crime, but repeated possession or possession with intent to sell is a felony. Over the years, efforts have been gradually made to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties associated with it.

In 2012, "The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act" was introduced.[1]

In 2014, Alabama passed Carly's Law allowing federally approved clinical trials of CBD oil to treat children with seizure disorder at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In 2015, "The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act" was introduced.[2]

In 2016, the state's legislators passed SB347, as "The Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Act," which changed the "definition of marijuana in the controlled substances law to exclude industrial hemp,"[3] which was defined as cannabis not containing greater than 0.3% THC by dry weight.

In 2016, the state's legislators passed HB61, which became known as "Leni's Law.[4]

In 2019, a bill by Bobby Singleton to reduce cannabis penalties advanced in the state senate. It would have eliminated the felony charge for a second personal use possession offense, saying instead that a person commits first-degree possession when they have two ounces or more, and that first-degree possession is not a felony until the third conviction. Also, second-degree possession would have been reduced from a misdemeanor to a violation.[5]

Also in 2019, a bill by Patricia Todd to reduce the penalty for possession was voted down in the House Judiciary Committee. Her bill would have made possession of an ounce or less punishable only as a violation. A nearly identical bill by Dick Brewbaker advanced in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6-4 vote and moved to the Senate floor.[6]

According to NORML, as of 2020, possession of any amount for personal use was still a misdemeanor punishable by 1 year in jail.[7]

History[edit]

Prohibition (1931)[edit]

Cannabis was banned in Alabama in 1931.[8]

Carly's Law for CBD trials (2014)[edit]

In April 2014, Governor Robert Bentley signed Carly's Law, which permits the University of Alabama at Birmingham to provide non-psychoactive CBD oil to children with debilitating seizures as a clinical study.[9] The bill does not include any wider legalization of CBD oil or cannabis.[10][11]

Failed attempts to legalize medical marijuana[edit]

In 2012, Representative Koven Brown, a Republican representing the state's 40th House District[12][13], introduced model legislation as "The Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Rights Act," which would "authorize the medical use of marijuana only for certain qualifying patients who have been diagnosed by a physician as having a serious medical condition."[14] In part, it enumerated 24 serious medical conditions, or any other "chronic or persistent medical symptom" that "substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336)" which "if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient's safety or physical or mental health."[15][16] The bill died in committee. Three years later, it was reintroduced with minor changes in the State Senate as SB326 and sponsored by State Senator Bobby Singleton.[17][18]

In 2015 state Senator Bobby Singleton proposed the Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act, which would have allowed patients with 25 severe conditions to access medical cannabis. The bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with near-unanimous approval, but failed to reach the Senate floor.[19] Senator Jabo Waggoner, head of the Senate Rules Committee, blocked the bills further progress, stating: "It is bad legislation... We don't need that in Alabama." High Times described the proposed bill as "the most impressive piece of legislation the South has seen in regards to establishing a statewide medical marijuana program".[20]

Gonzalez v. Raich amicus[edit]

Despite not allowing medical cannabis, Alabama along with Mississippi and Louisiana filed an amicus brief protesting Gonzalez v. Raich,[when?] with Alabama stating: "The point is that, as a sovereign member of the federal union, California is entitled to make for itself the tough policy choices that affect its citizens."[21]

Legal code[edit]

Under Alabama Code, first-time "personal use" offenders can be charged with Possession in the Second Degree, § 13A-12-214. That offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and the maximum penalty authorized is a 1-year jail term (although it can be suspended with probation ordered) and a $6,000 fine.

Possession in the First Degree, § 13A-12-213, is charged for non-"personal use" (i.e. intent to sell) and second and subsequent "personal use" offenses. This charge is a Class C felony punishable with imprisonment of 1-to-10 years (there is a mandatory minimum of 1-year-and-1-day to serve which cannot be suspended by the judge) and $15,000 fine.[22]

Sale of any amount is a Class B felony punishable with a 2- to 20-year sentence (with the 2 years being a mandatory minimum) and $30,000 fine. Sale to a minor is punishable by a sentence of 10-years-to-life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $60,000.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2012RS/PrintFiles/HB66-int.pdf
  2. ^ https://legiscan.com/AL/bill/SB326/2015
  3. ^ https://legiscan.com/AL/text/SB347/id/1365067
  4. ^ https://legiscan.com/AL/text/HB61/2016
  5. ^ https://www.al.com/news/2019/04/bill-to-reduce-marijuana-penalties-in-alabama-advances.html
  6. ^ https://www.al.com/news/2018/02/bill_to_reduce_alabama_penalty.html
  7. ^ https://norml.org/laws/item/alabama-penalties
  8. ^ Charles H. Whitebread (1974). The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States. Lindesmith Center. p. 354. ISBN 978-1-891385-06-3.
  9. ^ "Gov. Bentley signs Carly's Law to legalize marijuana-derived CBD oil prescriptions | AL.com". Blog.al.com. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  10. ^ "Alabama's medical marijuana bill may not be dead after all". AL.com. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  11. ^ Emily Hill. "Patients on waiting list for Carly's Law study told they're approved, not guaranteed to participate". AL.com. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  12. ^ http://www.legislature.state.al.us/aliswww/ISD/ALRepresentative.aspx?NAME=Brown&OID_SPONSOR=100521&OID_PERSON=1982&SESSNAME=Organizational%20Session%202019
  13. ^ https://ballotpedia.org/K.L._Brown
  14. ^ http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2012RS/PrintFiles/HB66-int.pdf
  15. ^ http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2012RS/PrintFiles/HB66-int.pdf
  16. ^ http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2011/12/your_views_thankfully_lawmaker.html
  17. ^ https://legiscan.com/AL/text/SB326/id/1192061
  18. ^ http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2015RS/PrintFiles/SB326-int.pdf
  19. ^ "'Devil is in the details,' says advocate for Alabama medical marijuana legalization". AL.com. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  20. ^ Adams, Mike (2015-04-27). "Alabama: Legislative Gatekeeper Kills Medical Marijuana Bill, Claims State Doesn't Need It". High Times. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  21. ^ Wesley Allen Riddle (7 September 2011). Horse Sense for the New Millennium: Conservative Commentary, 2000–2010. iUniverse. pp. 366–. ISBN 978-1-4620-4342-2.
  22. ^ "Marijuana Laws Alabama".
  23. ^ "State Laws". Norml.org. Retrieved 2015-03-02.