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Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin Pardons 15,000 Cannabis Offenders On 420

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin has used the executive authority of the mayor’s office to issue blanket pardons for all misdemeanor marijuana-related offenses issued by the city from 1990-2020.

His actions were on April 20th, a day adopted by cannabis advocates as their celebratory day, and he Tweeted that,

“Today, I issued a pardon of 15,000 people convicted of marijuana possession in Birmingham between 1990-2020. These pardons are a strong start, but our work is far from done. Join me in telling the State of Alabama to completely decriminalize marijuana.

Included along with the Tweet was a link to a petition “calling on the Alabama legislature to pass a statewide decriminalization measure in their next legislative session.”

Alabama’s next legislative session will be 2022, and the state legislative website states this about the legislative body:

“The Legislature convenes in regular annual sessions on the first Tuesday in February, except (1) in the first year of the four-year term, when the session will begin on the first Tuesday in March, and (2) in the last year of a four-year term, when the session will begin on the second Tuesday in January. The length of the regular session is limited to 30 meeting days within a period of 105 calendar days. There are usually two meeting or “legislative” days per week, with other days devoted to committee meetings. Special sessions of the Legislature may be called by the Governor, with the Proclamation listing the subjects which the Governor wishes considered. These sessions are limited to 12 legislative days within a 30 calendar day span. In a regular session, bills may be enacted on any subject. In a special session, legislation must be enacted only on those subjects which the Governor announces in his proclamation or “call.” Anything not in the “call” requires a two-thirds vote of each house to be enacted.”

In 2019, Mayor Woodfin and the City of Birmingham had earlier initiated a Pardons for Progress program to pardon people convicted of marijuana misdemeanors in city court, though it suffered lackluster public response. The Mayor said that the idea for the pardons program occurred to him while he was serving as an attorney in Birmingham Municipal Court.

He encountered numerous individuals who had misdemeanor marijuana arrests that prevented them from being hired for certain jobs. The Pardons for Progress program was designed to make it easier for low-level offenders to make a new start. The program was designed to to help people get jobs.

Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin

Mayor Woodfin explained his actions by writing, “Here’s why we’re doing this – no one should be held up by a single past mistake. No one should be denied job opportunities or freedoms due to missteps from the past. No longer will these residents be bound to their past. They deserve a chance to be part of our work force, to provide for their families and to achieve success on their own. That new life starts rights here, today, with forgiveness and redemption.”

Legally, the city uses a state law that allows the mayor to remit fines and commute sentences imposed in municipal court in order to craft a program for low-level offenders, and the application process is designed to exclude people charged with more serious offenses alongside marijuana possession.

City of Birmingham spokesman Rick Journey said that pending cases must be resolved before a pardon can be issued.

The mayor’s blanket pardon means that no action or fees will be required by anyone who has been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana charges in Birmingham municipal court.

Mayor Woodfin wrote further about his executive actions, stating, that “millions of people, disproportionately from Black and Brown communities, have had their lives upended due to marijuana charges from decades ago. These charges have led to arrests, convictions and even jail time, as well as criminal records that make it harder to find housing, receive a good paying job to earn a living, or receive financial assistance to earn a college education.

“Put simply these prohibitions do not make our city safer and only create barriers for many in our community to earn a good and honest living. One small mistake should not define an entire lifetime.

“This pardon covers residents with closed marijuana possession cases in the City of Birmingham between 1990 and 2020. All additional one-time marijuana possession charges continue to be eligible for our Pardons for Progress program going forward.

“These pardons are a strong start and will have a positive impact on many lives today and moving forward. But since the state government does not permit “home-rule” in Birmingham, I need you to join me in telling the State of Alabama to completely decriminalize marijuana and consider legalizing medical and recreational use like so many other states have.”

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