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Birmingham mayor issues 15,000 pardons for marijuana possession

The pardons affect those with a single closed unlawful possession case in Birmingham Municipal Court over the last 30 years.

A view of downtown Birmingham near Railroad Park. (STOCK)

In an announcement made on Cannabis’ unofficial holiday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced a blanket pardon for more than 15,000 city residents convicted of possessing marijuana between 1990 and 2020. 

“No one should be held up by a single past mistake. No one should be denied job opportunities or freedoms due to missteps from the past,” Woodfin said in a statement Tuesday. “No longer will these residents be bound to their past. They deserve a chance to be part of our workforce, to provide for their families and to achieve success on their own.”

The pardons affect those with a single closed unlawful possession case in Birmingham Municipal Court over the last 30 years. Present charges for marijuana possession are not covered by the pardon, neither are fines, cost and fees associated with a marijuana conviction, according to the mayor.

“That new life starts rights here, today, with forgiveness and redemption,” Woodfin said.

Since November 2019, the city of Birmingham maintained the Pardons for Progress program, meant to allow individuals with misdemeanor marijuana possession cases the opportunity to remove the charge from their record. In roughly two years, however, the program yielded only nine pardons from over 56 applications, many of which came from individuals charged outside Birmingham. According to AL.com, eight individuals did not meet the program’s criteria, and 11 remained under review.

Individuals with open cases for a single marijuana possession charge in Birmingham are still eligible for a pardon through the program.

In a statement from Woodfin’s mayoral campaign, the mayor urged citizens to sign a petition calling for the Alabama Legislature to enact full statewide decriminalization of marijuana during the next session.

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“Millions of people, disproportionately from Black and Brown communities, have had their lives upended due to marijuana charges from decades ago. These charges have led to arrests, convictions and even jail time, as well as criminal records that make it harder to find housing, receive a good paying job to earn a living, or receive financial assistance to earn a college education,” Woodfin said. “One small mistake should not define an entire lifetime.”

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John is a student contributor studying communications and French at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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