While the Alabama Senate race has dominated headlines this week, another prominent politician has managed to fly under the radar in his attempt to decriminalize petty possession of cannabis in the state.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Demands Reform
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has requested that state legislators find an alternative method of dealing with residents caught with small amounts of cannabis other than simply arresting them.
“We need to deal with this in a different pattern besides throwing somebody in jail,” Maddox said during last Thursday’s Tuscaloosa City Council’s Legislative Breakfast. “We’ve got this incredible pressure created from decisions in Montgomery. We’re now having to triage the most important aspects in terms of creating public safety in the community.”
According to Maddox, the reform is not meant to push legalization of weed in the state, but rather, free up police time and prevent prison overcrowding.
“We don’t need to be tying officers up on this,” Maddox said.
As a potential solution, Maddox suggested ticketing people for minor pot offenses and have their cases go through municipal or circuit court, as opposed to treating them like criminal cases.
Two Sides of the Spectrum: Alabama Mayor Asks State Legislators For Marijuana Reform
Bobby Singelton, a Democratic Alabama State Senator, supported Maddox’s plan for marijuana decriminalization.
“I’ve always been a big proponent of decriminalizing marijuana. I think that we just have so many people sitting in our jails for a small amount of marijuana,” Singleton said. “Where you have many states that are making it legal now, we have to look at that in the state of Alabama in terms of our overcrowdedness—I think we could see a big reduction—and I think this is a great step toward the city of Tuscaloosa looking at the seriousness of this crime but also allowing people who have just committed some minor incident to themselves by smoking a small amount of marijuana not to be filling our jails up.”
Rep. Chris England also agreed with the notion and explained that a change in policy could lead to police saving at least 45 minutes upon every encounter
“It’s a public safety issue,” England noted. “It’s more efficient and it actually keeps people out of jail who probably shouldn’t be there, anyway.”
But despite some support from some of his colleagues, not every politician at the breakfast shared Maddox’s stance regarding decriminalization.
Rep. Bill Poole, remained lukewarm on the notion and mentioned it would become a somewhat arduous process to change the rules, and most likely require a state-wide rule change first and foremost.
“I haven’t seen anything like that in the legislature. I think it would have a long way to go,” Poole said.“I think there’s a lot of analysis that would have to go into a proposal like that, and lot of public input. You’d have to really put it out there and have a public discussion on an issue like that.”