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Mobile conflicted on marijuana laws as debate continues to loom

Mobile appears to be facing conflicting desires as the debate on how to treat public marijuana offenses continues.

Earlier this month, Mobile County Sheriff Paul Burch announced ‘Operation Up in Smoke‘ to make it clear to residents and visitors of the port city that smoking marijuana is an arrestable offense — and officers will be vigilant.

“Marijuana is not legal anywhere in the state of Alabama and has not been legalized Federally. This purposeful disregard for obeying the law will not be tolerated in Mobile County,” the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office said in a strong statement to accompany the campaign’s launch.

However, Mobile City Councilman Joel Daves said he would sponsor a bill that would make public marijuana use a ticketable offense rather than a criminal one. Previously in 2017, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson sponsored a similar ordinance that would result in citations, but it failed to pass.

RELATED: Mobile Police Department reports reduced crime in annual report

In the initial release, Burch reminded Mobile that marijuana is still illegal in the state of Alabama — and the city would be cracking down.

“The open use of marijuana has become common in several public areas throughout Mobile County. We witnessed this during Mardi Gras and see it at grocery stores and all major shopping centers…If you choose to consume marijuana in the confines of your home, and we do not condone that you do, that is a risk you choose to take,” Operation Up in Smoke said.

“This operation is about the public outcry of others who do not wish to participate or expose their families to illegal drugs. Marijuana is not legal anywhere in the state of Alabama and has not been legalized Federally. This purposeful disregard for obeying the law will not be tolerated in Mobile County.”

But now according to WKRG, the City of Mobile is looking to pass a similar ordinance that it attempted in 2017 which would make “simple” marijuana possession a ticketable offense.

Public Safety Director Robert Lasky said that something like this would save the Mobile Police Department time and energy.

“This would allow our officers to just write a citation and send them on their way,” Lasky said. “It would free up the officers time not having to arrest them, book them and take them down to jail.”

Lasky said the goal of the ordinance would be to have offenders eventually appear before a judge, similar to a traffic ticket.

Burch said that the sheriff’s office is bound to state law and cannot follow specific city ordinances.

“Whether you get issued a citation by the city, if they pass that ordinance, or you get arrested by any other agency… you’re still committing an illegal act. It’s just a different method of getting you to court,” Burch said.

Michael Brauner is a Senior Sports Analyst and Contributing Writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @MBraunerWNSP

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