One year after pardoning 15,000 people for cannabis possession charges, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has again pardoned residents of their cannabis convictions.
Last April, Woodfin announced he was pardoning criminal convictions for possession of cannabis from 1990 through 2020. This year, Woodfin pardoned anyone in Birmingham convicted of misdemeanor possession charges in the last eight months of 2021.
According to the New York Times, Woodfin urged other mayors and governors to follow suit, saying marijuana criminalization is still being felt by people, mostly Black and Hispanic people, whose lives are dramatically affected by low-level convictions.
Recreational cannabis use in Alabama is currently illegal, and medical use didn’t become legal until Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation creating the Alabama medical marijuana program last year, ending a three-year legal battle. Many of the state’s Republican lawmakers still oppose full legalization, but mayors have executive power to grant pardons in the state. Woodfin also added he plans to continue the cannabis pardons yearly as long as he’s in office.
“This is not one of the ones I’m thumbing my nose at the state,” Woodfin told reporters. “It’s the right side of history.”
Eighteen states and Washington D.C. have fully legalized cannabis use, including New Jersey, which had its first day of recreational sales for 13 dispensaries on April 21. Northjersey.com noted the dispensaries that opened early on the first day did so with music, balloons, and excitement from the people who waited in line.
States where recreational use is still illegal include Wyoming, South Carolina, Kansas, and Idaho.
A spokesman for Woodfin told reporters it’s unclear how many people the blanket pardons would affect. Woodfin also added that the Birmingham Police Department, which continues to arrest residents for cannabis-related charges, said it is “not something the police actively wants to do” but is enforcing state law.