Over the last few decades, societal attitudes about marijuana have changed dramatically. Increasingly, many Americans - especially young people - are starting to think of marijuana as being more like alcohol than like heroin, cocaine or other harder drugs.
Unfortunately, this outlook sometimes leads people to ignore the serious criminal penalties that can come from Alabama drug charges. Law enforcement in Alabama continues to aggressively investigate and prosecute suspected marijuana crimes.
A recent illustrative example lies in the case of a Birmingham man who was arrested in January 2013 on suspicion of trafficking in large quantities of marijuana. The man was arrested after officers from the Vestavia Hills Police Department SWAT team and Narcotics Unit raided a building on Fourth Avenue South in Birmingham. Inside, they found 2.5 pounds of marijuana, along with hallucinogenic drugs, cash, weapons and drug paraphernalia.
The man who was arrested in the raid is facing a number of criminal charges, including marijuana trafficking, unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful sale of a controlled substance.
Alabama marijuana laws
Even less serious marijuana crimes can be punished strictly under Alabama law.
The possession of any amount of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. Possession of any amount not for personal use - or a second offense for personal use possession - is a felony, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
The penalties are higher for selling marijuana. The sale of any amount of marijuana is a felony, and conviction can result in at least two, and up to twenty, years in prison plus a $30,000 fine. If the customer in the sale is a minor, the potential penalty increases to between 10 years and life imprisonment and a fine of up to $60,000.
In addition, Alabama law treats the sale of anything more than 2.2 pounds (about one kilogram) of marijuana as drug trafficking. Depending on the amount of marijuana at issue, trafficking charges carry mandatory minimum prison sentences ranging between three and 15 years and maximum penalties of 99 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.
In addition to these penalties, people convicted of marijuana offenses in Alabama also face losing their driver's licenses for a six month period.
Because the possible penalties for marijuana crimes in Alabama are so serious, it is important for individuals charged with drug crimes to take their criminal defense strategies seriously. In many cases, a proactive approach can make a meaningful difference.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a marijuana offense in Alabama, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you protect your rights and your future.