Activists and Lawmakers March Forth With WA Bill to Defelonize Personal Drug Possession
A proposal to remove felony charges for the personal possession of any controlled substance will be prefiled in the House of Representatives this December in Washington State, and will have at least a dozen sponsors according to Sensible Washington, the organization behind the measure.
Under current Washington State law, the possession of any controlled substance, regardless of the amount, is a felony charge which carries with it a potential 5 year prison sentence. The sole exception is cannabis, with up to 28 grams being legal, and between 28 and 40 grams being a misdemeanor. However, if someone possesses 41 or more grams of cannabis, even post-I-502, they’re committing a felony.
The proposal which will be filed in December would reduce the charge for personal drug possession – personal being defined as not intended for distribution – to a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of 90 days. According to advocates, this would greatly reduce the impact of the failed drug war by freeing up prison space, saving the state millions of dollars and stopping thousands annually from being hit with a felony charge which permanently diminishes a person’s ability to obtain work, housing and an education.
An identical measure – House Bill 2116 – was debated earlier this year; the measure received a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee, with not a single person or organization speaking in opposition. Although the measure received enough support in that committee to advance, the committee’s chair decided to postpone a vote until 2015 in order to build further support for the measure (the fact that it was a short-session played a big part in the decision to postpone).
As with House Bill 2116, this new proposal will be filed in the House by State Representative Sherry Appleton. Numerous lawmakers, including Deputy Speaker of the House Jim Moeller and Senator Jeannie Kohl-Welles, have signed on as official cosponsors. Organizational endorsers of the proposal include Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
“The defelonization of first-offense, controlled-substance possession makes sense on so many levels”, says former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a supporter of the bill. “It accomplishes an important public safety objective without jeopardizing an individual’s future earning power, voting rights, or other freedoms.”
Those in Washington State that support the defelonization of personal drug possession should click here to fill out a form which will send an e-mail to their district’s lawmakers.