Alabama is about to pardon 15,000 former pot prisoners
Up to 15,000 alabamans previously arrested for holding pots are on the verge of removing these convictions from their criminal records.
In celebration of April 20th, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced that he would issue a blanket pardon to anyone convicted of marijuana offenses in Birmingham between 1990 and 2020.
Unfortunately, these pardons do not apply to individuals currently charged with weed possession. Birmingham city spokesman Rick Journey told AL.com that anyone who commits an offense against overt possession must resolve their case before a pardon can be issued. Possession of cannabis remains illegal in both the state and the city, so this move will not stop police from killing people for weeds in the future.
Birmingham actually developed a program that allowed former pot offenders to clear their records as early as 2019, but it was far from a success. The Pardons for Progress program has allowed Birmingham residents with previous weed convictions to apply to the city to clarify their records. However, the program was poorly understood and the city eventually received many applications from ineligible people who lived outside the city. In the two years that the program was active, only 9 people were successfully pardoned.
As the previous program failed, Mayor Woodfin launched this new plan to automatically eradicate past crimes. Under this new program, ex-offenders will not have to take action or pay any fees to have their records deleted. However, the pardons are only available to those convicted of pot possession in Birmingham County Court, and do not apply to those arrested elsewhere in the state for weed. Even so, the city estimates that up to 15,000 people can receive pardons under this new policy.
“Here’s why we’re doing this – no one should be held up by a single past mistake,” Mayor Woodfin said on social media, according to AL.com. “No one should be denied job opportunities or freedoms because of past missteps. These residents will no longer be tied to their past. They deserve the chance to be part of our workforce, to provide for their families and to be successful themselves. This new life begins here today with forgiveness and redemption. “
These pardons are a welcome change of pace for Alabama, a state that continues to prohibit cannabis in any form. Legislators have been pushing medical marijuana legalization for years, and while previous efforts have failed, proponents believe the bill has a good chance of being passed this year. State lawmakers also tried to pass a statewide decriminalization law a few years ago, but it was shot down.
Birmingham has now joined several other US states and cities to ensure the restoration of minor weed crimes. Illinois is known to pardon thousands of former cannabis offenders in late 2019, and California, Colorado, Nevada, and Pennsylvania upgraded or expanded all programs over the past year to remove previous convictions.