No state has been hit harder than Alabama by the deadly opioid addiction epidemic. This phenomenon, now considered a national health emergency, has been building since the 1990s and has grasped the lives of millions of people. Nearly every family has been affected in one or another by this health crisis. Whether it be friends or immediate family members, most people know somebody addicted to opioids, often unknowingly. Many times, overdose deaths take families by surprise, just like an accident or sudden illness, leaving them confused and traumatized. In fact, drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of preventable death and have quadrupled since 1999. From 2000 to 2015, more than a half a million people died as a result of an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many times, these deadly drugs come from the last drug dealer one would suspect: a doctor. In Alabama, this is particularly true, as there are more opioid prescriptions than there are state residents.
Alabama ranks first in the nation as the leading prescriber of opioid painkillers. To make matters worse, the most prescribed drugs are also the most powerful, like oxycodone (OxyContin), oxymorphone (Opana), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and even the extremely powerful synthetic opiate fentanyl. Fentanyl gained national attention as it became the leading cause of heroin overdose deaths. It is often used as a cheap way to “cut” heroin while simultaneously making it far more potent. Fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than morphine and 30-50 times stronger than heroin, which is no wonder why overdoses have spiked so sharply. In Jefferson County, deaths related to fentanyl doubled from 2015 to 2016. As of June 2017, there were over 300 overdoses in Madison County alone, with 37 deaths. One news report claimed that in Madison County there were 5 overdoses in a single night. This is very startling for Alabama, as 91 Americans are killed every day by opioid overdoses. Opioids have claimed more lives than the height of the AIDS epidemic and far more than the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s/1990s.
Marijuana, or “Marihuana” as it is written in Alabama state law, is illegal in all forms. It is very important to know the law in Alabama regarding marijuana because the state has very strict laws. It is possible to catch a felony charge, jail time, and/or very large fines in Alabama for possessing marijuana. Marijuana punishments in Alabama are as follows:
- 1st possession charge “personal use” is a Class A Misdemeanor and can carry no more than a 1 year in jail and a $6,000 fine.
- 2nd possession charge or “other than personal use” is a Class C Felony. Personal use is discretion and not a set amount like many states. A Class C Felony in Alabama can result in 1-10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
- Selling, delivering, or distributing marijuana in any capacity is a Class B Felony and can result in 2-10 years in prison and up to a $30,000 fine.
- If you are over the age of 18 and sell marijuana to a person under the age of 18, this is a Class A Felony, which can carry a minimum sentence of 10-99 years in prison and up to a $60,000 fine. Selling marijuana within 3 miles of a school or university can result in a 5-year prison sentence.
For cultivating or trafficking marijuana in Alabama there are harsh mandatory sentences based on the amount of marijuana. They are:
- For 1 kilo to 100 lbs. the minimum is 3 years and there’s a mandatory $25,000 fine
- For 100-500 lbs. the minimum is 5 years and a $50,000 fine
- For 500-1000 lbs. the minimum is 15 years and a $200,000 fine
- For over 1000 lbs. the penalty is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
Alabama also has a law called the “Alabama Drug Trafficking Enterprise Act,” which is aimed at locking up gang leaders or “drug kingpins.” This law also carries mandatory sentences for any person managing 5 or more people in a “drug trafficking or cultivating enterprise.” For a first conviction, the mandatory minimum is 25 years in prison with a fine between $50,000 and $500,000. For a second conviction, the leader is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole and a $150,000 to $1,000,000 fine.
Alabama does not allow medical marijuana but it does allow medical CBD oil with a prescription. CBD oils are marijuana derivative extracts that do not contain THC, the chemical that produces a “high.”