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Birmingham to pardon 15,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday the city would issue a blanket pardon to all those convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges in municipal court between 1990 and 2020, which could affect more than 15,000 people.

The city’s Pardons for Progress program started in 2019 to make it easier for people to have minor marijuana charges pardoned and sealed. But the program required an application and granted only 9 pardons since its launch. Many applications came from people who had been convicted outside of Birmingham.

Tuesday’s announcement of an automatic, blanket pardon will not affect those with open cases in municipal court. Those cases must be resolved before a pardon can be issued, said City of Birmingham spokesman Rick Journey.

Possession of marijuana remains illegal under state and federal law. Three dozen states have legalized medical marijuana and 16 have authorized recreational use, but Alabama has not done either. Lawmakers are considering a medical marijuana bill, although past efforts to create a system for use by patients have failed. Alabama Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Birmingham, created a bill to remove charges after five years, but it has not passed the legislature.

Birmingham officials have said the program is designed to make it easier for people to get jobs. People with misdemeanor charges may have a more difficult time passing background checks required for employment. [Read more at]

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