Marijuana possession, sale, and distribution is regulated by both state and federal law. In Alabama, marijuana is regulated as a “Schedule I” controlled substance. (Ala. Code § 20-2-23.)
This article explains the consequences of use, possession, cultivation, and sale. For information on driving under the influence of marijuana, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Alabama.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession
Possession of marijuana is a criminal offense. Possession for personal use only (any amount less than one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds) is a Class A misdemeanor when the defendant has no prior convictions under this statute, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. (Ala. Code §§ 13A-12-214, 13A-5-7, 13A-5-12.)
Possession of any amount of marijuana over one kilogram (or a second offense of under one kilogram) is a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. (Ala. Code §§ 13A-12-213, 13A-5-6, 13A-5-11.)
Penalties for Drug Paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia includes anything used in the growing, sale, or use of marijuana—for example, growing kits, scales, testing equipment, separation sifters, or pipes. (Ala. Code § 13A-12-260.) A first conviction for possession or sale of drug paraphernalia is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. (Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-7, 13A-5-12.) Subsequent violations are Class C felonies, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. (Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6, 13A-5-11.)
Sale of drug paraphernalia to a minor who is three or more years younger than the seller is a Class B felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000. (Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6, 13A-5-11.)
All drug paraphernalia is subject to forfeiture. (Ala. Code § 13A-12-260.)
Marijuana Cultivation, Sale, and Trafficking
The cultivation, sale, or distribution of marijuana is known as “drug trafficking” and is a felony offense. Alabama imposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking or possession of more than one kilogram of marijuana, depending on the quantity of the cannabis plant involved (including the seeds, resin, and every plant derivative). The mandatory sentences are:
- three years in prison and fine of $25,000 for an amount greater than one kilogram (2.2 pounds) but less than 100 pounds
- five years in prison and fine of $50,000 for an amount greater than 100 pounds but less than 500 pounds
- fifteen years in prison and fine of $200,000 for am amount up to 1,000 pounds, and
- life without the possibility of parole for an amount of 1000 pounds or more. (Ala. Code § 13A-12-231.)
The penalties are enhanced if marijuana is sold on or within three miles of a school or housing project, adding five years to the sentence (Ala. Code §§ 13A-12-250, 13A-12-270.) Sale to minors (under 18) can increase the penalty by 10 years to life in prison (with no possibility of suspension or probation). (Ala. Code § 13A-12-215.)
Additional Penalties for a Criminal Enterprise
When a drug sale is part of a “criminal enterprise” to sell drugs—for example, when five or more individuals cooperate and obtain substantial income (any amount exceeding minimum wage) or resources from the sale—additional penalties ranging from 25 years to life in prison, and fines ranging from $50,000 to $1 million, will be imposed. (Ala. Code § 13A-12-233.)
Suspension of Driver’s License
Any conviction for possession, sale, or cultivation results in the suspension of the offender’s driver’s license. Driver’s license suspension also occurs for other crimes, such as solicitation or attempt to commit a controlled substance crime and driving under the influence. (Ala. Code § 13A-12-291.)
Does Alabama Allow Medical Marijuana Use?
No. In 2011, a bill (HB 386) was introduced that would have authorized the medial use of marijuana for certain patients with debilitating conditions, but the bill did not make it through the Alabama legislature’s House Committee on Health.
Alabama’s Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program allows for medical research and experimentation with regard to the use of cannabis under strictly controlled circumstances. (Ala. Code §§ 20-2-110, et seq.)
Does Alabama Impose a Stamp Tax on Marijuana?
Yes. A stamp tax is a tax imposed on certain types of transactions (such as the transfer of property) that requires a stamp to be purchased and attached either to the item sold or to an instrument documenting the transaction (such as a deed). The federal government imposes stamp taxes ondeeds, the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds, and on playing cards.
In Alabama, those who possess marijuana are required pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) onto the contraband. However, because the possession of marijuana is illegal, people typically don’t pay the stamp tax. When you are convicted for possession, you will also be liable for payment of the unpaid taxes ($3.50 for each gram or portion of a gram). A dealer who fails to pay the stamp tax is guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by an additional penalty of one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. (Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6, 13A-5-11, 40-17A-9.)
An Important Note on Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local attorney knows how any particular court handles such cases.