This December, legislation will be prefiled in the Washington State Legislature to remove felony charges for the the personal possession of illegal substances. Identical to House Bill 2116, a proposal introduced by Sensible Washington in the last legislative session, the measure will be sponsored by Representative Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) in the House and will have multiple cosponsors in both the House and Senate.

Under current Washington State law, the possession of any controlled substance, even a minuscule amount, is a class C felony with a potential 5-year prison sentence. The exception is cannabis, with up to 28 grams not being a crime for those 21 and over, and between 28 and 40 grams being a misdemeanor. However, if someone possesses 41 or more grams, they’re committing the same class C felony.

The upcoming proposal will reduce the charge associated with the personal possession of illegal substances to a standard (non-gross) misdemeanor, which has a maximum sentence of 90 days. Charges involving the manufacturing or distribution of illegal substance, and charges involving minors, would remain unaltered.

According to an official fiscal note for House Bill 2116, the defelonization of personal drug possession would affect over 9,000 cases annually, and would save the state millions of dollars. This would free up prison space, increase the state’s budget, and put an end to the negative harms associated with giving felony charges to nonviolent drug offenders, which permanently diminishes their ability to gain proper housing, work and education, leading many to a life of crime simply to get by.

In January, House Bill 2116 received a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee, with not a single person or organization speaking in opposition. Although the measure received sufficient support to advance, 45th District Representative Roger Goodman (D), chair of that committee, made the decision to postpone a vote until 2015 in order to build further support for the measure.

Multiple lawmakers, including Representatives Jim Moeller (Deputy Speaker of the House), Joe Fitzgibbon (Chair, House Environment Committee), Gerry Pollet (Vice Chair, Higher Education Committee) and Senator Jeannie Kohl-Welles, have signed on as official cosponsors for the upcoming measure, which will be prefiled in December for the 2015 session in January. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) a coalition of thousands of current and former law enforcement officials, has officially endorsed the effort, as has Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Washington CURE.

“The defelonization of controlled-substance possession makes sense on so many levels”, says former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a supporter of Sensible Washington’s effort. “It accomplishes an important public safety objective without jeopardizing an individual’s future earning power, voting rights, or other freedoms.”

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In a huge victory for patients, Washington’s Legislature has failed to approve any negative changes to the state’s medical cannabis law.

House Bill 2149 passed the state’s House of Representatives last month, and Senate Bill 5887 passed the state’s Senate last week. Both measures would have brought forth a mandatory patient registry, drastically reduced the amount of cannabis a patient can possess and cultivate, and would have shutdown collective gardens.

Fortunately, both bills have failed to advance before the end of the session – March 13th – and are now dead.

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House Bill 2116 Receives Strong Support in Public Safety Committee, Vote On Defelonization Delayed

February 5, 2014

House Bill 2116, our proposal to defelonize personal drug possession, has received enough support in the House Public Safety Committee to be approved, according to Representative Roger Goodman, Chair of the committee. However, given that it’s a short-session, and the vote would be along party lines, Representative Goodman has decided to postpone a vote for […]

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Support House Bill 2233 to Protect Medical Cannabis

January 22, 2014

Legislation to protect medical cannabis patients and collectives has been filed in Washington’s House of Representatives. Under the proposed law  (House Bill 2233) medical cannabis patients would receive defined arrest protection, as would medical cannabis collectives who simply receive a business license from the state. The measure was formulated by Sensible Washington in conjunction with Americans for Safe Access. […]

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Legislation Filed in Washington State to Defelonize Personal Drug Possession

December 20, 2013

[Update, January 10th, 2013: House Bill 2116 will receive a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee Tuesday, January 14th at 10AM in Hearing Room B of the John L. O'Brien House Office Building in Olympia.] Legislation was filed last week in Washington State to remove felony charges for personal drug possession. The proposal (House Bill […]

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Protect Patients’ Rights in Washington State

October 25, 2013

[Update 11/7/2013]: If you click here you can fill out a form which will instantly send an e-mail to your three district legislators, urging them to protect patients’ rights – it only takes seconds.] Recently the Washington State Liquor Control Board – which is tasked through a budget proviso to give recommendations to the legislature for medical […]

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