Council unanimously supports state bill that would amend charges for marijuana possession

Photo Cred: Melania Tata, Flickr Commons

Councilor John Hilliard said he wasn’t surprised that his colleagues unanimously voted to approve a resolution he submitted in support of SB 98, a piece of state legislation that would amend marijuana possession laws in Alabama.

“This is what the constituents really want,” Hilliard said, following the meeting. “They want to see us make progress in changing the way law enforcement handles small amounts of marijuana.”

Here is the resolution as it appeared on Tuesday’s agenda:

Here is a copy of SB 98:

“This resolution is the City of Birmingham sending the message that we need to move with the times,” Hilliard said. “It’s an excellent bill and Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), who is sponsoring the bill, is moving in sync with what’s happening across the country…Our senior citizens, college students, young people, they are demanding change because we spend far too much money locking people up for possessing small amounts of marijuana.”

As of today, there are 11 states, including the District of Columbia, that have made marijuana recreationally legal and in 33 states, medical marijuana is legal. Last week, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill — SB 236 — that would make Alabama the latest state to allow medical marijuana.

Last month conducted an unscientific poll to gauge the approval rating for legalizing medical marijuana. Of the 23,42 people who voted, 97 percent said they supported it.

Councilor Clinton Woods echoed Hilliard’s sentiment on Tuesday, saying that data indicates that the black community is disproportionately affected by the current practice of incarcerating people for low-level marijuana offenses.

“One group of people in particular is obviously impacted by the laws more than others,” Woods said. “You can miss work and lose your job. There’s a lot of negative things that can come with this. And if you look at the national trends, public opinion is moving toward decriminalization…We just wanted to throw our support behind getting this bill passed because we think it’s the best thing for the citizens of Birmingham.”