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 2116) was filed by State Representative Sherry Appleton, and was formulated by the nonprofit organization Sensible Washington. According to Sensible Washington, at least 8 other legislators will sign on as cosponsors once they’re able to do so in early January.

Under current Washington State law, the possession of any amount of any controlled substance – or over 40 grams of cannabis – is an automatic felony with a potential 5 year prison sentence. House Bill 2116 would alter this by reducing the charge to a misdemeanor, with a maximum jail sentence of 90 days, as long as there is no intent to distribute, and there are no minors involved.

“The felonization of low-level drug offenses is an archaic, regressive policy that has been a huge burden on society, and on taxpayers”, says Sensible Washington. “It’s time we take a smarter approach, and begin to wind down the failed war on drugs.”

According to the group, House Bill 2116 has the official endorsement of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an international organization representing tens of thousands of college students, as well as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a coalition of law enforcement officials such as former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper.

Those wanting to get involved in this effort should e-mail Sensible Washington at info@sensiblewashington.org.

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