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Alabama Representative: “There’s nobody in our State prisons just for marijuana.”

Sam Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Representative Phillip Pettus (R-Killen) said there were zero people in Alabama’s prison system for solely marijuana during a committee meeting.

Pettus’ comments came during a House Judicial Committee Meeting on Wednesday during a public hearing for a new bill that would make possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana a finable offense.

“There’s nobody in our state prisons just for marijuana,” Pettus said.

Immediately after Pettus’ comment, Representative Patricia Todd (D-Montgomery), who was attending the meeting, quietly disputed Pettus from her seat in the audience.

“That’s not true,” Todd said.

Todd is the sponsor of the bill and spoke during the public hearing. She said the bill would save money for the State by “clearing up the clog in our legal system.”

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Pettus was directing his comment towards Frank Knaack. He is a proponent of the bill. During his speech, he said the current law unfairly gives criminal records to people who only used marijuana.

Knaack is the Executive Director of Alabama Appleseed, an organization that advocates for systematic changes that affect low-income, disadvantaged and underrepresented people.

Knaack seemed to be stunned by what Pettus said.

“It’s just not true if you look at the data,” Knaack said after the meeting regarding Pettus’ comment.

In 2015, there were 285 people in state prisons solely for marijuana possession according to a report by the Alabama Sentencing Commission. The commission is a government organization that keeps track of all records of sentencing in Alabama.

While Pettus’ comments did strike some, the real talk of the meeting occurred later between former Representative Richard Laird and Representative Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham).

The bill was not voted on by the committee.

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