Celebrating 4/20 the right way: Birmingham Mayor issues 15,000 pardons for minor marijuana offenses
Mayor Randall Woodfin is pushing for more action on the issue at the state level and has implemented his own Pardons for Progress program in the city.
On Tuesday, April 20, Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin announced that he will issue pardons for 15,000 people with minor marijuana convictions on their record.
More specifically, Alabama’s largest city will grant pardons to charges for 15,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions between 1990 and 2020.
The mayor also posted a tweet urging the state of Alabama to follow in his footsteps, also sharing his petition on his campaign website.
Today, I issued a pardon of 15,000 people convicted of marijuana possession in Birmingham between 1990-2020. These pardons are a strong start, but our work is far from done.
Join me in telling the State of Alabama to completely decriminalize marijuana. https://t.co/qAFvbjJour
— Randall Woodfin (@randallwoodfin) April 20, 2021
“The mass pardons through our Pardons for Progress initiative are a strong start and will have a positive impact on many lives today and moving forward. However, I believe this is not where our work must end,” Woodfin wrote on the petition webpage.
He pointed to the disproportionate number of Black and Brown people who have “had their lives upended” due to minor marijuana charges from decades ago.
Charges such as these can, and have, led to arrests, convictions and jail time, as well as criminal records that hinder people from receiving adequate wages, financial assistance, a college degree, and stable housing.
“One small mistake should not define an entire lifetime,” Woodfin wrote in bold lettering.
The city of Birmingham introduced the Pardons for Progress program in 2019 to make it easier for those with marijuana charges to get pardoned and have their charges sealed.
Possession of cannabis remains illegal in the state. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, but past efforts have failed.
— Kailey Schuyler WAFF 48 (@kaileyschuyler_) April 20, 2021
Rep. Chris England, chair of the state’s Democratic Party, said that thousands of people have been “trapped” within the state’s criminal justice system due to laws against marijuana possession and use.
Woodfin announced this blanket pardon on “4/20,” a date widely celebrated by cannabis advocates. Aside from partaking in the typical festivities, it’s also a day that advocates call attention to the lack of justice within the cannabis industry and the criminal justice system.
Cannabis justice means:
1️ Divesting from the police and investing in our communities.
2️ Legal cannabis markets are accessible to those who have been harmed by the war on drugs.
3️ Ending the prosecution of cannabis distribution.
4️ Expunging all cannabis convictions.
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 20, 2021
As the corporation Ben & Jerry’s pointed out in a series of infographics on their Instagram page, 81% of cannabis business owners are white, and only 4.3% of them are Black.
According to an ACLU report from last April, Black people are 3.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana, despite similar usage rates.
On Wednesday, March 31, New York lawmakers passed legislation that not only makes possession and use of marijuana legal, but also allows for people with certain marijuana convictions to expunge their records.
Earlier this month, Virginia became the first Southern state to legalize marijuana.
Mayor Woodfin made a bold yet necessary decision on a day where advocates spread awareness about cannabis injustice and revel in the many benefits that the plant brings to the world, both medical and spiritual.
“Here’s why we’re doing this — no one should be held up by a single past mistake. No one should be denied job opportunities or freedoms due to missteps from the past,” Woodfin said in a statement.