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Bill to reduce marijuana possession penalties passes AL senate committee

The American Civil Liberties Union reports a bill passed Wednesday.

Posted: Apr 17, 2019 10:28 PM
Updated: Apr 18, 2019 2:59 PM

Senate Bill 98 was unanimously passed through a senate committee on Wednesday, and now that it seems to be getting some traction, law enforcement and others are weighing in.

"This seems to be a step in the right direction," said Halston Burress, who is in favor of the bill.

Senate Bill 98 reduces the penalty for possession of marijuana, and Burress feels it's at least reasonable.

"I think any possession penalty is a stretch," Burress said.

Burress said in terms of crime, he thinks law enforcement has bigger fish to fry.

"It's an important bill for law enforcement. It's really important that they don't have to stress over something so small as marijuana," Burress said.

However, Huntsville Police Sergeant Tony McElyea told WAAY 31 new law or not, the job's still the same.

"It really doesn't affect us. We're going to go to work. It doesn't decriminalize marijuana. What it does is change the sentence structure," McElyea said.

Under current law, anyone found with less than an ounce of marijuana may be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. More than an ounce is a Class C Felony. It's also a felony to have less than an ounce of marijuana individually packaged in three or more packages.

If Senate Bill 98 is signed into law, less than an ounce of marijuana becomes a violation punishable by fine of not more than $250 for the first two offenses and not more than $500 for the third offense and beyond. One to two ounces is a misdemeanor, and two or more ounces is a felony.

McElyea said he thinks the real difference maker is the threshold between a misdemeanor and felony charge, especially since a felony charge comes with a much higher bond.

"I would venture to say that those that would normally get charged with a felony in this situation if this bill is passed, but are charged with a misdemeanor, would be able to get out of jail a lot easier, so that may reduce the population in our jail some," McElyea said.

Senate Bill 98 is far from being made law. Up next, it will go to the full senate for a vote. The American Civil Liberties Union reports a similar bill was introduced during last year's session, but it failed in committee.

(MOBILE USERS: Click HERE to read Senate Bill 98)

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