Huntsville City Council discusses creating new procedure for officers making marijuana arrests

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Alabama is one of 37 states that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. Recreational use however is still illegal.

During a work session, Huntsville City leaders discussed a new potential pot policy allowing Huntsville police to issue a citation instead of arresting someone caught with small amounts of marijuana on them.

That citation would function as a traffic ticket, but still carry the same criminal charge for possession of marijuana.

The goal is to not bog down officers with low-level crimes, freeing them up to handle other tasks.

Councilmember Devyn Keith sees these arrests disproportionately affecting a portion of Huntsville.

He says “I’ll tell you when statistics stick out, the question is ‘what efficient processes can we go through to diminish the punitive effects that it seems the laws are having on a very specific population’.”

The process of handing out citations instead of making arrests is the same process that Huntsville police were allowed to use under Kay Ivey’s Safer-At-Home mandates.

“During the COVID times, we were able to see that it was really an effective way to do things,” Dewayne McCarver, Deputy Chief of Huntsville Police said. “We were able to process these cases and get them before the judges the exact same ways. It was just a more efficient and effect way of doing business.”

Keith says the first initial step for protecting officers and citizens is giving outsiders a perspective on the statistics, even if it makes people uncomfortable.

“It is my subjective view to believe that those individuals who are arrested to make up 70% of those who are actually smoking recreational misdemeanor-level marijuana in Huntsville is just not a reality, but it also makes me aware that police officers who are doing their job and upholding the law are making arrests because that’s what the law makes us do in the city of Huntsville.”

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