Marijuana cases keeping courts busy - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Marijuana cases keeping courts busy

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Marijuana isn't legal, but its use is common among college students. So, the arrest of dozens of University of Alabama students on marijuana charges is generating lots of talk on campus.

Public Defender, Joseph Van Heest, says employers can hire firms that check court computers showing an arrest. He says that can definitely affect someone's ability to get a job.

"Many people were just in shock." says University of Alabama student Sean Zakar.

"Marijuana is very common on any college campus." says student Jesse Munoz.

The arrest of 61 University of Alabama students for marijuana charges has people talking. Munoz says "I personally think it's strict. If you ask me, I think it should be legalized at some point." While Zakar says "People have to pay the consequences for what they do."

But the consequences are choking the court system in Tuscaloosa County. "Before this past week, we have been dealing with thousands and thousands of cases across the state on marijuana possession." Public Defender Joseph Van Heest says anyone convicted of a mis-demeanor Marijuana possession will lose their driver's license in Alabama six months and pay thousands of dollars in fines and court costs.

And if you're found with a joint a second time, it's a felony. While Van Heest did not say he's for legalizing marijuana, he says the number of cases can take a way time from more serious offenses. "As to comparing that with other offenses that need to be prosecuted, the more you fill it with certain cases, the less time you have to spend on other cases."

As for the future of the UA students, Van Heest says the charge could certainly affect their ability to continue with their education.

Van Heest says there is a drug court program in Tuscaloosa County that sometimes permits certain options for certain people. In the meantime, the students arrested will be referred to judicial affairs with the University.

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