The Current Status of Cannabis Legalization in America: Alabama
As of 2021, cannabis- marijuana is legal in 18 states, and Washington D.C (D.C is a district not a state). In the southern region of the United States, the state of Virginia is the only state that has legalized cannabis- marijuana for recreational consumption. But even there, legalization comes with restrictions like- no retail sales, just home grow.
In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation legalizing medical cannabis on May 17, 2021. Known as the Darren Wesley “Ato” Hall Compassion Act, the law permits the use of medical cannabis to treat certain medical conditions including:
- Crohn’s disease
- Panic disorder
- Parkinson’s disease
- Persistent nausea
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic or intractable pain, among others.
In Alabama, marijuana legalization is limited, and though legalized for the above, there are restrictions:
- Alabama allows for high-CBD/low-THC cannabis to be provided for medical patients with a prescription.
- To be approved for a prescription, a physician must have recommended medical marijuana based upon a state-qualifying condition- as noted above
- Those in possession of medical marijuana legally, upon testing, if the THC amount is higher than the legal threshold, you may still be charged with marijuana possession.
- Getting caught in possession of marijuana, whether medical or recreational, may lead to an arrest even while testing of the substance is pending.
- An important note: an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the complex charges you might encounter.
Even in a legal-ish state like Alabama, the war on drugs still prevails, and not necessarily in the streets like mainstream would like people to believe, but in politics, in law, in families.
Alabama’s War on Cannabis Marijuana
The reality of cannabis marijuana laws in Alabama, as it relates to the people goes a little something like this:
- In 2016, the population in Alabama totaled 4,778,593 and arrests rates were 22.38 per 100,000 residents.
- 89% of the people arrested for marijuana offenses in Alabama from 2012 to 2016, were arrested for possession.
- In 2016, 92% of the 22.38 people arrested for marijuana offenses were arrested for possession.
- Of the total population of 4,778,593, Black people were approximately 4 times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession (both misdemeanors and felonies) and 5 times as likely to be arrested for felony possession.
Another reality- there are bigger issues than monitoring plant consumption. The enforcement of marijuana possession laws creates a crippling backlog at the state agency tasked with analyzing forensic evidence in all criminal cases, including violent crimes.
For example, as of March 31, 2018, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences had about 10,000 pending marijuana cases, creating a 9 month waiting period for analyses of drug samples. During this time, the department had a backlog of 1,121 biology/DNA cases, including about 550 “crimes against persons” cases such as homicide, sexual assault and robbery.
Alabama Trends: Cannabis- Marijuana Arrests vs Sentencing
“This war on marijuana is one whose often life-altering consequences fall most heavily on black people – a population still living in the shadow of Jim Crow.”- Southern Poverty Law Center
Though the Alabama cannabis- marijuama arrests are high, according to Birmingham Real Time News, being arrested doesn’t mean you will be convicted:
“As of Oct. 17, 2016, there were 220 inmates – four out of five of them black – convicted of 1st degree Possession of Marijuana being held in state prisons, according to numbers from the Alabama Sentencing Commission’s recent annual report. Overall that’s a 69 percent drop from Jan. 3, 2009 when Alabama’s overcrowded prisons held 708 inmates on that same charge.”
In this same article in Birmingham Real Time News, Montgomery County District Attorney- Darryl Bailey says:
“Nobody goes to prison for marijuana possession anymore. It’s now hard to get someone to prison on a sale.”
However, of those convicted, Black people rank highest. In 2016, Alabama marijuana conviction statistics showed 178 black males, to 36 white males.
There is still a lot of stigma because of federal prohibition. This leads to lack of research. But, from the research out there, Alabama should know that their number 1 issue, which is no longer marijuana, but Methamphetamine, can be minimized with marijuana legalization.
Per Alabama statistics, marijuana dropped to the number 2 most abused drug. Meth- amphetamine had the highest reports of abuse by treatment respondents (82%), while marijuana had the second highest report of abuse (77%). And we should note that these figures of “abusing” marijuana, comes from data regarding the Alabama Drug Threat Assessment.
Because of federal legalization, marijuana is still considered a schedule 1 “drug”. Studies are showing that marijuana can prevent opioid addiction. In an article published on the Recovery Village, it states:
“Prescribed marijuana can help prevent an opioid addiction from developing in the first place. Many addicts begin their addiction with a prescription for painkillers, and medical marijuana might be a suitable and safer substitute.”
Furthermore, associated crime and violence based on the 2021 drug survey data, shows that marijuana is not considered a major leading contributor to violent crime or property crime.