Hemp is valued for its fiber, which can be used to make rope. Stalks and seeds can be used to make fabric, fiber board, carpeting, insulation, livestock feed and automobile components. Alabama maintains extremely restrictive laws which inhibits the agricultural community from participating in this highly profitable and environmentally conscious industry. Other uses for cannabis products involve medicinal and recreational products.
On February 24, 2021 the Alabama Senate voted in favor of legislation that would legalize medical cannabis/marijuana usage. The bill was already considered the most restrictive medical marijuana bill in the nation, but it was further amended on the Senate floor by my opponent. His lengthy amendment outlawed any sugar coatings on any products, and limited initial dosages to 50 milligrams during the first 90 days. This micro-managing of a medical prescription impinges upon the medical profession as well as law enforcement. A medical professional is significantly more qualified than a politician to establish dosage and timing needs for a patient. A law enforcement officer is now put in the position to determine how long a citizen (i.e. suspect) has been taking it, what is the precise dosage, and if an edible cannabis is legal, or if it is candy coated and therefore the individual possessing it must be arrested and treated like a hardened criminal. Even after his amendment was incorporated, he still voted against the bill, which was later approved by the other members of the Alabama Senate.
This type of criminalization, for the use of a product no more dangerous than alcohol, must be ended. While marijuana and alcohol are both substances that affect the body in various ways, alcohol has been linked to more health problems than marijuana (Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which Is Worse? | Palm Beach Institute (pbinstitute.com) ). The abuse of either substance can have serious consequences, but these are choices that any adult American is entitled to make without the intervention of well-intentioned politicians playing to the preferences of their base supporters.
In the application of laws, the driving of vehicles while under the influence of mind-altering substances needs to be equally applied to both alcohol and marijuana abuse, but no more. Saddling an individual with criminal charges, court costs, and a career-busting criminal record is a tragic and reprehensible approach for what is typically a victimless crime. This outrageous punishment, (which is typically doled out disproportionately to younger people just figuring out life, minorities, and lower-income citizens), can have a devastating impact on their lives far exceeding any harm in actually using marijuana.
A huge benefit from eliminating the criminal aspects of marijuana possession and usage, is the tremendous relief to the police and court systems throughout the state. Imagine the number of cases that would cease to burden the Alabama justice system and the additional productivity that would be afforded law enforcement officers in their pursuit of prosecuting more serious crimes. Also factor in the long-term reduction in jail and prison costs, and the associated costs to the Alabama taxpayers in providing prisoner’s food, clothing, housing, and medical expenses. A similar reduction would be realized in follow-on court-ordered probation and counselling services in which the taxpayers bear a share of the costs.
And finally, the associated financial/economic/social impacts of decriminalizing marijuana should be a consideration. The orderly taxation of marijuana products similar to tobacco and alcohol could help offset other taxes currently leveled on the general population of Alabama like groceries and gasoline. The incentives for criminals (i.e. the black-market) to pursue the sales and distribution of illegal drugs would be significantly diminished. There would be improvements in the standard quality being offered for consumption and a corresponding reduction in accidental overdoses associated with black-market products.
This change in attitudes within Alabama's legislative body is sorely needed, and I will work hard to bring it about.