Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, apologizes for a blanket 15,000 pot convictions
Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday that blanket pardons will be issued for cannabis convictions spanning more than 30 years, giving up to 15,000 more people to celebrate on April 20th. And in a further step by the heads of state on the occasion of the high holiday, the Democratic Party of Alabama urged lawmakers to legalize cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use.
In a statement from Woodfin, the Mayor noted that in 2019 Birmingham started a Pardons for Progress program designed to make it easier to pardon previous convictions for cannabis and to seal the records. Pardons, however, had to apply for relief, and only nine convictions have been resolved since the program began.
Under the new plan, announced Tuesday by Woodfin, closed cases from 1990 to 2020 that resulted in marijuana possession misdemeanor convictions will be automatically pardoned. Cases pending before the court would have to be closed before a pardon could be granted. However, the pardon does not result in a reduction or refund of any fines or fees paid to the court.
Woodfin noted that the new Justice Campaign was launched to address the disproportionate effects of convictions for minor marijuana crimes.
“Here’s why we’re doing this – no one should be held up by a single past mistake,” Woodfin wrote in a statement from the mayor’s office. “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 take care of their families and to be successful themselves. This new life begins here today with forgiveness and redemption. “
Beyond Birmingham, the Alabama Democratic Party is calling for adult legalization
Also on April 20, the Alabama Democratic Party announced that it was calling for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes and for adults in the state. The party noted that legalization would save the state millions of dollars that it now spends prosecuting cannabis crimes and detaining offenders. Additionally, a regulated economy for the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of cannabis products would create jobs while increasing much-needed tax revenues for the state and local governments.
Alabama Rep. Chris England, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives and chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, told local media that thousands of people were “trapped” in the state’s criminal justice system because of marijuana prohibition laws.
“Nearly 100 years of marijuana prohibition and criminalization have trapped thousands of Alabamians, mostly blacks, in our broken criminal justice system,” England said in a press release. “Not only does cannabis reform help our state generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, it is also an important step in reducing arrests and clearing records. Nobody should be in jail to carry a little weed. “
In February, Alabama Senate lawmakers passed a law legalizing medical marijuana and sent the proposal to the House for consideration. And last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a move to end jail sentences for cannabis possession convictions. In its statement, England called on Alabama to take the lead in a major and significant reform of marijuana policy in the region.
“We’ve had medical marijuana discussions in the legislature, and that’s a good first step, but we can’t allow Mississippi or Georgia to legalize recreational sales before we do,” he said. “We have seen the progress that other states have made. Alabama could be the first state in the deep south to legalize recreational cannabis. “