BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Earlier this week, we told you Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr wants to stop locking people up for small amounts of marijuana. Now some in the faith-based community are calling his effort courageous.
In this letter to Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith, Sheriff Mark Pettway and Bessemer cut-off District Attorney Lynniece Washington, Carr is suggesting moving to a “cite and release” policy when it comes to people caught possessing small amounts of marijuana.
"I think it’s more efficient to do it that way because in all honesty a lot of the states around us and a lot of states nationally are basically decriminalizing marijuana and I think this is the first step in that process,” Carr said.
Faith in Action, a multi-faith, multiracial group that works to achieve systemic change calls Carr’s move a step in the right direction.
"We are over incarcerating in our state and this is an important step at the local level to help address this state crisis regarding mass incarceration,” said Daniel Schwartz, Executive Director of Faith in Action Alabama.
A 2018 Alabama Appleseed report pointed out a racial disparity between African Americans and whites in terms of arrests for possessions of marijuana.
"We need to be wise in how we’re using our criminal justice resources and using it for arresting and prosecution and incarceration of individuals for possession of small amount of marijuana for personal use is really an incredibly unwise use of those resources,” Schwartz said.
Carr says sellers and people who drive after using the drug should still be prosecuted but he says society pays in the end by locking up people with small amounts of pot.
"People have been jailed for small amounts of marijuana. Their inability to get housing later on, their inability to even get grants for school because of that, their inability to get a good job because of that,” Carr added.
Under the policy, Carr tells us officers would have discretion to cite or arrest someone. People with small amounts of the drug would still be arrested for driving under the influence or having an illegal handgun.
Carr says his office will still go after marijuana trafficking and distribution.
Earlier this week, DA Washington and Sheriff Pettway told us they believe in cite and release policies as well. Meantime, a bill to reduce penalties for marijuana possession is now heading to the state senate.