BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – On Friday, October 5, Jefferson County District Attorney candidate Danny Carr tweeted that “it’s hard to imagine that our limited resources should be devoted to jailing individuals for marijuana possession instead of focusing on serious violent crimes.” While he later clarified that he would still be prosecuting marijuana possession cases, he emphasized that “jail for small amounts of marijuana is a no no.”
This position marks an important departure from the way marijuana possession cases are currently being handled, where a second conviction for any amount of marijuana is prosecuted as a felony. Instead, Carr, whose position is similar to those taken by progressive district attorneys across the country, thinks it’s more appropriate to treat the offense “like a traffic citation.” While it remains unclear what constitutes a small amount or how he intends to implement this policy, advocates anticipate continued dialogue with him at the upcoming District Attorney Candidate Forum, hosted by Faith in Action Alabama.
Carr’s opponent Mike Anderton issued a response to WBRC.
Less week, following Carr’s Twitter announcement, Alabama Appleseed released its latest report titled Under Pressure: How fines and fees hurt people, undermine public safety and drive Alabama’s racial wealth divide. The report discusses, in part, how the over-policing and over-prosecution of Black communities in Alabama for marijuana possession and other drug-related offenses results in those communities being saddled with debilitating fines and fees on top of felony convictions.
Local advocacy groups recognize Carr’s position as a necessary step in the right direction, but the report calls on district attorneys to go even further by not “prosecuting people for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and for possessing drug paraphernalia.”
“People of color are more like to be incarcerated for nonviolent drug convictions. Disproportionate treatment of individuals based on race, class and income within the criminal criminal justice system perpetuates a cycle of poverty and is a significant cause of voter disenfranchisement.” Stephanie Hicks, Moderator, Alabama Civic Engagement (ACE) Coalition
“We know the war on drugs was a failure that impacted communities of color, particularly Black communities, for over a generation now. And thanks to recent polling data, we also know that Alabama voters from both parties are ready to end the war on drugs and address racial disparities, which go hand in hand,” said Dillon Nettles, ACLU of Alabama’s policy analyst. “While we appreciate Mr. Carr’s public statement in support of marijuana reform, we also hope to see him continue to clarify how he intends to implement this policy, and we hope to hear from Republican candidate Mike Anderton. District Attorneys have the power to transform our criminal justice system, and we are hopeful that Jefferson County’s next DA will commit to reform.”
“The criminalization of poverty, and the racist implementation of such policies, have consequences that extend beyond mass incarceration,” said Cliff Albright, Cofounder of Black Voters Matter Fund. “Such policies and the monetizing of Black lives often leads to instances of excessive force. Although there’s a much larger framework that must be addressed, Mr. Carr’s statement is certainly a step in the right direction.”
For more information, contact:
Trudy Strassburger, Senior Legal Counsel at The Justice Collaborative, 215-888-1012, firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrected from earlier version that said Anderton had not issued a response or statement regarding his position on marijuana convictions.