Tuesday, November 01, 2005
On this day:

Governor's task force suggests making marijuana possession a misdemeanor

Governor Riley's Task Force on Prison Overcrowding has recommended reducing marijuana possession to a misdemeanor.

A first offense is a misdemeanor now, but a second is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Current law sends nearly 500 people to prison each year...

"Alabama ranks with only four other states ... that authorize up to 10 years of incarceration as punishment for possession of 2.2 pounds or less of marijuana," the commission pointed out in its 2005 report.
This comes on top of a report commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance that reveals just how much prison space is taken up by those convicted of drug-related offenses.

According to the AP:
The report points out that drug-related offenses made up 3,202, or 31 percent, of the 10,267 prison admissions in 2004 — nearly twice the number of robbery, murder, rape and manslaughter entries combined, based on figures by the Alabama Sentencing Commission.

The researchers say three out of 10 inmates have received an enhanced sentence under the state's habitual offender law and 1,325 of the 8,259 habitual offenders are drug convicts.
It's time for Alabama to correct the excesses of the drug war. As a first step, it should reconsider how it treats those who are convicted for minor drug offenses such as marijuana possession. It is senseless and immoral to sentence people to long prison terms for using and/or abusing drugs and alcohol. Fine them and send them to rehab, but quit filling up our prisons with a bunch of nonviolent potheads.

Correction: Governor Riley's Task Force on Prison Overcrowding did not recommend reducing marijuana possession to a misdemeanor. That was a suggestion of two of its members. Thanks to commenter Tim for pointing that out.