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Report: Alabama's Failed War on Marijuana


In Alabama, a person caught with only a few grams of marijuana can face incarceration and thousands of dollars in fines and court costs.


Marijuana prohibition costs the state and its municipalities an estimated $22 million a year, creates a dangerous backlog at the agency that tests forensic evidence in violent crimes, and needlessly ensnares thousands of people – disproportionately African Americans – in the criminal justice system.

This report from the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Southern Poverty Law Center is the first of its kind to examine the fiscal, public safety, and human toll of marijuana prohibition in the state.

The study analyzed demographic data about the 2,351 people arrested by police in Alabama for marijuana possession in 2016, along with arrest locations, in addition to examining broader impacts. The report also includes an economic analysis of the cost of marijuana prohibition, conducted by two economists at Western Carolina University. The study found that:

  • Alabama and its municipalities spent an estimated $22 million to enforce the prohibition against marijuana possession in 2016. 
  • Despite studies showing black and white people use marijuana at the same rates, black people were approximately four times as likely to be arrested for either misdemeanor or felony marijuana possession.
  • The enforcement of marijuana possession laws has created a crippling backlog at the state agency tasked with analyzing forensic evidence in all criminal cases, including violent crimes.

Read the full report, download the PDF, and jump into the sections below.

Thousands Arrested Each Year

Each arrest represents a negative interaction with police and can trigger a lifetime of consequences.

The Human Toll

Read the stories of five families shattered by Alabama's draconian marijuana laws.

Enforcement Comes at a Cost

Alabama spends $22 million to criminalize marijuana possession.