WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIAT) — Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin testified before Congress on Tuesday during a hearing to discuss the decriminalization of cannabis at the state and federal levels.

“Ending the prohibition of cannabis has taken far too high a toll on Black and brown communities,” Woodfin said.

Woodfin pushed for the legalization of cannabis, and he told the Congressional subcommittee he has encouraged Alabama’s government to decriminalize the drug.

Last year, the Alabama Legislature approved a bill authorizing the production of medical cannabis by licensed growers, processors and distributors for specific health conditions. Woodfin said this was the first major step in the right direction.

“I’ve commended Alabama’s effort to move forward with the medical cannabis program, but I will also urge Alabama to go a step further in providing full adult recreational use for many other reasons,” Woodfin said.

He also called on Congress to pass legislation to provide reforms to existing cannabis laws, such as wiping cannabis convictions from criminal records and expanding research into its effects.

“There is no evidence that legalization leads to an appreciable increase in any form of crime, there is no evidence of increased drug use by teens in states that have already legalized cannabis. If anything, legalization frees up law enforcement’s resources to pursue violent crime,” Woodfin said.

However, Representative Russell Bedsole, HD 49 – R, disagrees. He’s a commander with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and has served in law enforcement for 24 years.

“When we see these things on the street, it is often indeed not just marijuana, there is other paraphernalia associated, other drugs, other narcotics, and the elements in which it’s being used usually leads to other criminal type endeavors,” Bedsole said.

He added he doesn’t think there is enough information on cannabis’ potential health risks.

“We don’t have an accurate picture. While we might know someone in our life that has used it and said it didn’t have any harmful effects, or maybe we saw a loved one who was suffering from let’s say cancer and maybe it eased the pain — I’m very sympathetic to it — but I think the overall public health crisis here, we have to be careful,” Bedsole said.

University of Alabama at Birmingham neuroscience student Shri Reddy said that she’s for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, citing it will make medical marijuana more accessible.

“[Legalization] will give people that actually need it more access and in a safe way,” Reddy said.

Lisa Autry, who runs Your CBD Store, is also in favor of legalization but with heavy regulation. She used to work for the District Attorney’s office in Jefferson County.

“I think [legalization] is better for our community and our people — not that I’m agreeing with anybody getting high or being on drugs or anything like that,” Autry said.