Birmingham to pardon 15,000 with marijuana convictions

Posted at 4:08 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 16:08:32-04

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama's largest city will issue blanket pardons for more than 15,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1990, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday.

The pardons, linked to city court cases, are automatic, Woodfin said in an announcement made on April 20, a day that many associate with marijuana use.

Many people have a hard time finding work because of drug convictions, and Woodfin said the move would allow them to rejoin the workforce and provide for their families.

"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," he said in a statement.

The pardons will eliminate convictions for marijuana possession from criminal records from 1990 through 2020 but do not affect pending cases, said a news release. A pardon also does not cancel fines, fees or other costs linked to a marijuana conviction.

The announcement by Woodfin, a Democrat, came as the Alabama Democratic Party said it would support the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use in the state.

Legislative committees have approved a Republican-backed bill allowing marijuana for medical uses, putting the measure in line for a key vote in the Alabama House.

Rep. Chris England, the chair of the state Democratic Party, said thousands of people have been "trapped" in the state's criminal justice system because of laws against marijuana.

"Reforming policy surrounding cannabis not only serves our state in producing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, but is an important step in reducing arrests and expunging records. Nobody should be sitting in jail for carrying a little bit of weed," he said in a statement.