In our last post, we began a discussion about a Southern Poverty Law Center report calling Alabama’s marijuana trafficking laws “arbitrary” and “excessive.” Our state has among the harshest sentences for marijuana offenses and a very low threshold for trafficking charges.
Lives have been ruined by a drug that is treated much more lightly in surrounding states and is legal (with conditions) in more than half of the country.
Uneven Enforcement Of Laws
Not only are Alabama’s marijuana laws unduly harsh and arbitrarily written, they are also enforced unevenly. The SPLC studied the cases of 50 people currently incarcerated by the Alabama Department of Corrections for marijuana trafficking. In one case, a man convicted of possessing 5 pounds of marijuana was given a 30-year sentence. In another case, a man convicted of possessing 120 pounds of marijuana was sentenced to just three years.
Neither previous convictions nor sentence enhancements were a factor in either case. The only difference is that the man with the much lower sentence agreed to plead guilty, while the man with the higher sentence chose to exercise his Constitutional right to a jury trial.
One Prominent Example
A disabled veteran (age 72) and his adult son (age 45) were charged with marijuana trafficking in 2011. Neither man sold marijuana to others. The father used marijuana personally to alleviate pain and treat anxiety. When their house was raided, police recovered about 3 pounds of marijuana.
The older of the two men had a criminal record, but his previous conviction had occurred 20 years prior. Nonetheless, he was charged as a “habitual felony offender” and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The SPLC found that there are at least six people serving life sentences in Alabama for marijuana trafficking.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Earlier this year, the state senate passed a bill that would legalize cannabis for medical use. Lawmakers have also introduced a bill that would make personal-use possession of marijuana a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a much lower sentence. Neither of these measures is guaranteed to pass, but they at least suggest that lawmakers are aware of the problems with the state’s marijuana statutes.
Until or unless major reforms occur, you cannot afford to take any chances if you are facing charges for marijuana or any other drug. Please seek the help of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney.