Associated Press Writer
Alabama's sentences for minor drug offenders are among the harshest in the nation, and some researchers say the stiff punishments create racial disparities among offenders and continue to fill state prisons beyond capacity.
A study by the Equal Justice Initiative points out that more than half of prisoners locked up for first-degree marijuana possession are black men, while nearly three-fourths of felony DUI offenders are white men.
But driving while drunk doesn't even become a felony until the driver has been convicted on DUI four times, and the average sentence is nearly half that for first-degree marijuana possession - creating a racial disparity, the study says.
From the Alabama Sentencing Commission's 2005 annual report:
"It became readily apparent when reviewing these laws that there was no clear line of demarcation on the amount of marijuana that can be considered possessed “for personal use only” under Alabama’s possession of marijuana statutes (13A-12-213 and 13A-12-214). Under existing law, a first offender who possesses 2.2 pounds or less of marijuana can be charged and convicted of a Class C felony under 13A-12-213 or as a Class A misdemeanor pursuant to §13A-12-214."