Monday, October 31, 2005
News staff writer
A circuit judge and a retired judge, both members of Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Prison Overcrowding, suggest the state consider reducing marijuana possession to a misdemeanor.
A first offense is a misdemeanor now, but a second is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Current law sends nearly 500 people to prison each year.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Jim Hill and former Lee County Circuit Judge Robert Harper, who retired in January after 18 years on the bench, say they don't advocate decriminalizing the drug. However, they say that, in a state with such limited prison space, community drug treatment makes more sense than making users take scarce prison beds.
"According to the prison commissioner, 80 percent of our folks in jail or prison are illiterate or have a drug problem, and I think we need to start looking at who we want in prison," said Hill, who was a district court judge for 10 years before being elected last year to the 30th Circuit.
In response to ("Pot law draws judges' scrutiny" Oct. 31)
Making personal possession of marijuana a misdemeanor is almost a step in the right direction. Almost, but not quite.
As someone who has worked in drug policy and prison reform in Alabama for the last three years I'd like to make a few suggestions to the Task Force on Prison Overcrowding.
1. Marijuana should be seperated from hard drugs and regulated in a way similar to alcohol and tobacco. There should be no threat of arrest, fines, drug testing or any hardship or any other form of punishment imposed on adults who use marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes.
2. Drug courts and treatment resources should be directed at helping those who are addicted to hard drugs. There exists in Alabama a large group of people willing to pay tax on marijuana. The tax money collected could be used to fund drug courts and treatment for hard drug addicts just as the money collected in tax from the sale of alcohol is used to help fund D.H.R.
3. As for start up funding for drug courts and treatment centers, how about doing what Morgan County recently did on a statewide level?
" Morgan County Commission Chairman John Glasscock said he has identified money needed to start the program.
He said the money will come from the law enforcement fund that the county uses for matching funds for drug task force grants."
What a novel idea!
Respectfully Submitted for publication,
Alabama Gubernatorial Candidate 2006