Over the past few years, the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice has been reviewing drug laws, practices and research. After extensive research and review of Colorado statutes, the commission concluded that drug laws and strategies would be improved by more clearly differentiating between those drug offenders who are primarily users and addicts from the more serious offenders who engage in the crimes of distribution, manufacturing and trafficking of drugs.
For those drug offenders who are primarily users and addicts, the commission determined that intervention and treatment in the community would be a more effective use of resources than the current escalating system of punishment that often results in a prison sentence. For these offenders, it was recognized that the current structure and approach to prosecuting these drug crimes is frequently ineffective in reducing recidivism and curbing addiction, and that a primary omission from current law is a means of assuring prompt and effective treatment of drug offenders.
The study of the commission led to introduction of “A bill for an act concerning changes to crimes involving controlled substances,” HB 1352.
»Increases penalties for drug distribution.
»Creates a new crime of distribution of schedule I or II drugs by an adult to a minor (class 3 felony) and if the adult is more than two years older than the minor, imposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
»Increases the crime level to a class 3 felony and imposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence for distribution (even without remuneration) of marijuana or marijuana concentrate by an adult to a minor less than 15 years old.
»Increases the crime classification for distribution of ketamine (AKA “date rape drug”) to a class 3 felony.
»Reduces the crime of drug use from a class 6 felony to a misdemeanor.
»Redefines the quantity of drugs that is considered “simple possession” from one gram or less to four grams or less of a schedule I or II drug and two grams or less of methamphetamine.
»Standardizes that possession for personal use of amounts greater than “simple possession” quantities is a class 4 felony.
»Requires cost savings from this bill to be evaluated annually by the Division of Criminal Justice and reported to the Legislature and that some of the cost savings will be allocated to expand and enhance substance abuse treatment.
If there is evidence that even small quantities of drugs are possessed with the intent to distribute, prosecutors can still file a criminal charge of drug distribution at any quantity of drugs.
Why we should support the bill:
»Colorado ranks 47th in funding for treatment of addiction.
»Smart on crime: Left untreated, drug abuse is associated with elevated rates of failure on probation and parole and higher rates of recidivism. Evidence overwhelmingly shows that treatment, not incarceration, is the way to effectively address drug crime and stop the revolving door.
»More effective use of resources: These reforms will ensure better use of our public safety dollars. We can make our communities safer for less money. The state faces an unprecedented budget crisis, and the General Assembly must consider cost-saving measures in the criminal justice system while maintaining public safety.
»Broad bipartisan support that transcends politics: These recommendations received strong, bipartisan support from the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Bipartisan co-sponsorship of these bills shows this is not a Democratic or Republican issue.
I urge you to contact your state senator and representative and ask them to join the bipartisan effort to enact this important legislation.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010