The state of Alabama has made headlines this past week regarding its Senate election, while another politician goes unnoticed for his efforts to decriminalize petty marijuana possession throughout the state. The mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox, has asked for state legislators to seek alternative methods other than arresting the state’s residents who are caught with minor amounts of marijuana.
“We need to deal with this in a different pattern besides throwing somebody in jail,” Maddox said. “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.”
Maddox has made it clear that this reform is by no means a way drive legalization into Alabama, but more to free up police officer’s time as well as counteract prison overcrowding. “We don’t need to be tying officers up on this,” Maddox said.
Maddox suggested ticketing offenders for minor marijuana offenses with the cases going through municipal or circuit court, instead of treating these offenses as criminal cases. Bobby Singelton, Democratic Alabama State Senator, backed Maddox’s suggestion of marijuana decriminalization in the state.
“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 stated, “It’s a public safety issue. It’s more efficient and it actually keeps people out of jail who probably shouldn’t be there, anyway”.
Although there is many in support of the idea, not all of Maddox’s colleagues supported decriminalization. Rep. Bill Poole, remained subdued on the idea and believes it would become a difficult process to change the regulation, and would above all require a state-wide regulation change.
“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.”