CCJRC Legislative Update--Drug Reform Bill Introduced
BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO REDUCE DRUG ADDICTION AND IMPRISONMENT INTRODUCED
IN LEGISLATURE TODAY
Senate Bill 163 Reduces Penalties for Drug Possession and Reinvests Savings in Corrections Into Community-Based Substance Abuse Treatment
Specifically, SB 163 would:
- reduces from a class 6 felony to a class 1 misdemeanor the crime of simple possession
- reduces from a class 4 felony to a class 6 felony the crime of possession of over 4 grams of a schedule I or II controlled substance or more than 2 grams of methamphetamine
- requires savings in corrections be reinvested into substance abuse treatment
SB 163 does not make any changes related to drug distribution offenses. If there is evidence that even small quantities of drugs are possessed with the intent to distribute, prosecutors can still file a felony charge of drug distribution at any quantity of drugs.
SB 163 is also co-sponsored by Senators Aguilar (D-Denver), Cadman (R-Colorado Springs), Grantham (R-Canon City), Guzman (D-Denver), Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge), Neville (R-Littleton), Spence (R-Centennial) and Representatives Barker (R-Colorado Springs), DelGrosso (R-Loveland), Ferrandino (D-Denver), Massey (R-Poncha Springs), McCann (D-Denver), Nikkel (R-Loveland), Singer (D-Longmont), and Vigil (D-Fort Garland)
The bill also has the backing of diverse organizations including the Independence Institute, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Foundation.
SB 163 needs our support! CCJRC is asking its coalition partners and allies throughout the state to support SB 163. The District Attorney’s Council will oppose SB 163 so we need to demonstrate strong community support for this common sense and humane approach to addressing addiction through the hope and tools of recovery rather than the threat and fear of incarceration in prison. If your organization would like to join the list of supporters, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read the full text of SB 163 at
In the fall of 2011, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) analyzed data provided by the Division of Criminal Justice on drug cases in Colorado from August 2010 – November 2011. This data demonstrated that, of ALL drug offenders sentenced to prison, 60% (310 people) were convicted of drug possession at an average cost of $32,000 per offender per year, nearly $10 million per year.
In 2009, Roger Przbylski (RKC Group, Lakewood, Colorado) released his report entitled, Correctional and Sentencing Reform for Drug Offenders: Research Findings on Selected Key Issues. Key findings included:
- Research has produced clear and convincing evidence that substance abuse treatment reduces alcohol and drug use and crime.
- Studies that have examined the monetary costs and benefits of incarcerating drug offenders have produced clear and consistent evidence that imprisonment of drug offenders is not a cost-effective use of public resources and that substance abuse treatment provides a greater return on tax dollars than incarceration.
- A large body of scientific evidence indicates that the incarceration of drug offenders does not have a significant deterrent effect on drug use. In fact, our enhanced understanding of the science of addiction helps explain why the threat or experience of incarceration has so little impact on chronic abusers. The repeated use of addictive drugs eventually changes how the brain functions. These brain changes affect natural inhibition and reward centers causing the addict to use drugs in spite of the adverse health, social and legal consequences.
THE RAND Corp. study “Controlling Cocaine: Supply Versus Demand Programs” found that each dollar spent on treatment issues reduces the cost of crime and lost productivity by $7.46, while traditional domestic drug enforcement (arrest, seizure and incarceration) returns just 52 cents. Researchers for the conservative American Enterprise Institute concur stating “treatment of heavy users is a far more cost effective policy at the margin than any kind of enforcement.”
A felony conviction is a lifetime punishment, resulting in significantly reduced ability to obtain housing and employment, the basics of productive life. Low-level drug possession does not warrant a lifetime of diminished opportunity.
Close to 20 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have some level of schedule I or II controlled substances classified as a misdemeanor offense. The states differ on quantity and structuring of offenses. Other states are currently considering similar changes.