Legislation to defelonize the personal possession of illegal substances has been filed in Utah’s House of Representatives. New polling released today shows a strong majority of Utah voters support the move.
House Bill 348 would reduce the penalty for the personal possession of illegal substances from a felony, to a class A misdemeanor. New polling conducted by Public Policy Polling, and commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union, shows that 58% of Utah voters support reducing the penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, with just 34% opposed.
“Many people with drug problems have serious co-occurring mental illness, such as PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression,” says Jamie Justice, Executive Director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Utah chapter. “When we pushed these people out of mental health institutions years ago, we pushed them into the criminal justice system. The survey results help confirm that Utahns agree we need to start treating these drug offenses as what they are – a symptom of a serious public health issue, not as some moral failing that demands a harsh punishment.”
The poll also found that 61% of those surveyed believe that drug use and possession should be treated as a health issue – not a criminal one – with an opportunity for treatment.