Signs of Intelligent Life in the Colorado Senateby Stephen Littau
Several members of the Colorado Senate introduced a bill yesterday that would reduce drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, favoring drug treatment programs over incarceration in state prisons.
Lynn Bartels reporting for The Denver Post writes:
Senate Bill 2012-163 deals with drug offenders who primarily are users and addicts rather than dealers, and enhances their access to treatment.
“We have so many people throughout this country who are the casualties of a failed war on drugs,” said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder. “And in one sense, when you get a felony, not only do you get a criminal penalty, but what you have is a sentence to life without employment.”
During a news conference at the Capitol, Levy presented the bill with Sens. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield.
“Let’s be clear. This is not legalization. This is not decriminalization,” Mitchell said. “This is simply a smarter approach to fighting the evils of drug abuse in our society.”
While this bill doesn’t go as far as I would like, this is certainly a step in the right direction. I’m not a big fan of forced drug treatment programs but it’s a far better alternative than a felony conviction that never goes away. In addition to this proposed legislation, Coloradans will have an opportunity to legalize marijuana (with the same regulations as alcohol) in November. If both of these become Colorado law, this would be a pretty significant blow to the war on (some) drugs and the prison industrial complex IMO.
Will either of these reforms pass? It’s hard for me to say but I’m a little skeptical. Still, the fact that these sorts of reforms are being proposed outside of libertarian debate societies by people who can actually change the criminal code is quite exciting and quite encouraging.