Colorado Bill Has Defelonized Possession
Colorado HB19-1263 took effect on March 1st, 2020, and defelonized hard drugs. What does that really mean? Which drugs are affected? How is this supposed to help the people of Colorado? Is defelonizing drugs the way forward in drug policy?
What Does HB19-1263 Change?
So, my local 7-11 is going to sell pure Colombian nose candy now?! Slow down there, Scarface, you can’t get that kind of ‘snow’ here, and people won’t be carrying wheelbarrows of Cannabis. While fearmongers may want people to believe the streets of Colorado are going to be overflowing with hard drugs and addicts, the truth is, Colorado isn’t the first state to have ‘defelonized’ hard drug possession.
Without the propaganda and spin, here’s what really changed with HB19-1263.
Changes from HB19-1263 To Possession
Possession < 4 grams
Possession of 4 grams or less of any Schedule I or II Drugs is now a level 1 drug misdemeanor.
The exception is GHB(gamma hydroxybutyrate) commonly known as a "date rape drug". It is still a felony to possess.
Carrying Bulk >6oz
MORE than 6 ounces of Cannabis
MORE than 3 ounces of Cannabis Concentrate
Will now be subject to a level 1 misdemeanor.
Posession < 2 grams
Possession of 2 grams or less of cannabis will no longer get you arrested.
Possession of 3 ounces or less of cannabis concentrate is now considered a level 2 misdemeanor.
Failure to show up for a misdemeanor possession charge can lead to an arrest warranty being issued.
Don't be tardy to the party.
Sentencing Changes From HB19-1263
The court can impose drug treatment or probation for possession charges. These can also be substituted for public service requirements.
Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 2013's fingerprinting and photographing requirements will only be applied to FELONY charges.
Lower Sentencing for Cannabis
Both level 1 and 2 misdemeanors have had their penalties reduced.
Level 1 gets you UP TO 180 days in jail or 2 years probation
Level 2 gets you UP TO 120 days in jail OR 1 year probation
Here's What the Supporters Say
A Colorado with defelonized hard drugs will help those that need treatment instead of putting them in jail or prison. This is expected to save the taxpayers money, by reducing the burden non-violent drug addicts have on state resources.
Also, it is very difficult for anyone with a felony on their record to get a job; especially a good one. That means one ‘mistake’ in high school or college can forever alter the course of your life by making you an ‘undesirable’. That’s unacceptable to me. Supporters hope the new law will give people the means and opportunity to get their lives straightened out, and, thereby , decreasing the chance they commit a felony.
The idea isn’t exactly new. California and Utah have both had success with their defelonizing efforts. Utah’s drug courts have been able to focus on the people with high needs, instead of minor, first time possession cases. It should also be noted that, repeat offenders and those involved in violent crimes can still be charged with felonies.
The new defelonize law isn’t without its detractors, however, and ,in all fairness, some of their concerns are warranted.
Some Sheriffs opposed the bill because, they claim, it will only shift the tax burden to the county and city level, not remove it. Smaller rural areas may not have enough tax money to provide proper treatment options.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder had this to say, “My concern is the shift that will put from state penitentiaries, the state DOC, onto county jails,”. Elder also brought up the sky-rocketing homeless population in Seattle, and attempted to implicate their lenient drug policy as the cause. Seattle defelonized drugs several years ago, and many see it as a model for future drug efforts. Elder concludes, “By saying that we shouldn’t ‘fight the war on drugs’ because we don’t win — that’s just craziness.”.
No law is perfect, and HB 19-1263 isn’t an exception.
That said, it’s intention is to help those that need treatment, keep them out of the incarceration cycle, and save taxpayer money. The devil is always in the details, and only time will tell if defelonization is the way forward. Honestly, at this point, just about anything would be an improvement over the failed ‘War on Drugs’.