Tuscaloosa City Council OKs marijuana charge changes

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Valarie Bracken

If you’re caught with small amounts of marijuana in Tuscaloosa, you’ll no longer be taken straight to jail.

Instead, the Tuscaloosa City Council on Tuesday approved Police Chief Brent Blankley’s recommendation suggesting officers be allowed to hand out citations instead of going through the lengthy process of booking low-level nonviolent offenders into jail.

Other low-level misdemeanor offenses including having an improper ID or being possession of drug paraphernalia will also be ticketed offenses.

Anyone charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession can face up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Few, if any first-time offenders wind up in jail on minor possession charges.

Blankley said the move will save the department a bunch of time, because it currently takes about two hours for a police officer to arrest someone, take them to jail and file paperwork on low-level charges.

Once the changes are in place, officers who find personal amounts of marijuana can write the offender a ticket, which takes less than 30 minutes.

“Our big thing is we want to have officers on the street more, rather than making an arrest for dime bags of marijuana,” Blankley said. “We all know that jails and prisons are overcrowded. We hope to ease some of that off.”

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