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Huntsville City Council to discuss changes to marijuana possession penalties

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Marijuana laws vary widely across the country and continue to be the subject of debate both nationwide and in Alabama.

At a work session scheduled for Wednesday, the Huntsville City Council says it will discuss efforts to prevent arrests for misdemeanor possessions of marijuana.

“We will have a comprehensive deep dive on our perspective on misdemeanor marijuana possession, the effects it has on the community of Huntsville as a whole, and progressive reform steps that we should take, I believe, to make sure our city is not being punitive, but equitable,” said Councilmember Devyn Keith during an April 14 city council meeting.

Huntsville defense attorney Mark McDaniel said he sees possession of marijuana for personal as a minor offense, but the charge gets amped up when there’s a prior possession charge. McDaniel said that has to change.

“If there’s one prior possession for personal use, it goes from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony. You could go to prison for five years. That’s a problem and I think it needs to be addressed by our state legislature.”

Huntsville Police Department Spokesperson Sgt. Rosalind White tells News 19 because marijuana, even in small amounts, remains illegal in Alabama offenders are subject to arrest.

McDaniel said a change in penalties would mean fewer inmates in the madison county jail and that would potentially save taxpayer dollars.

“We’re right at 40 dollars a day for each inmate down there and you’ve got over 1000 inmates down there right now in the local jail,” he said. “Add that up per day, per month, and per year. You see how many millions of dollars you’re paying. That doesn’t count of health care for the inmates that are down there.”

McDaniel said he’s hopeful a change at the municipal level generates a change at the state level, and ultimately works to keep minor offenders out of prison.

“You’re spending right at 25% of your general fund taxpayers’ money in the state of Alabama to keep people locked up for nonviolent offenses like possession of marijuana. I think these laws need to be changed, so you don’t have people in prison for that reason.

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