Pardons are to be issued by the city to over 15,000 people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses in municipal court between 1990 and 2020, mayor Woodfin announced in a statement on Tuesday.
“One small mistake should not define an entire lifetime,” Woodfin said on his campaign website.
The step comes after the mayor’s Pardons for Progress initiative was launched in 2019, which had only granted 9 pardons since its launch because of an application process that made the program slower, according to AL.com.
Woodfin said the initiative was still a strong start, but said, “Our work is far from done,” in his campaign’s effort to completely decriminalize marijuana use.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, Woodfin said the program would only apply for closed cases in Birmingham Municipal Court and open cases would not be considered for pardon.
“No longer will these residents be bound to their past,” Woodfin said, “They deserve a chance to be part of our work force, to provide for their families and to achieve success on their own.”
City of Birmingham spokesperson Rick Journey said city police will continue to enforce state law and city prosecutors will still prosecute cases, according to AL.com.
Alabama Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Birmingham, created a bill to remove marijuana charges throughout the state five years ago, but it has not passed the legislature. Lawmakers in Alabama are considering a medical marijuana bill, although the Birmingham mayor’s intent is to decriminalize recreational use as well.
Woodfin said there are obstacles created by these marijuana offenses and people should still have access to financial assistance and good paying jobs despite possession charges.
“Millions of people, disproportionately from Black and Brown communities, have had their lives upended due to marijuana charges from decades ago,” Woodfin said.
The blanket pardon applies automatically to people who have been convicted in municipal court, not applicable to fees, fines or costs associated with the case, and no application process is needed.