Measure to Defelonize Simple Drug Possession Garners Eight Legislative Sponsors, Will Receive Hearing

October 9, 2013

[Update 11/21/2013: We’re excited to announce that Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a national organization consisting of thousands of former law enforcement officials, has officially endorsed this proposal to defelonize personal drug possession.]

A recently announced proposal to remove felony charges for personal drug possession has garnered eight legislative sponsors in both the House and Senate. The bill will be prefiled in December this year.

Sponsors of this measure include Rep. Jamie Pedersen (Chair of the House Judiciary Committee), Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rep. Sherry Appleton, Rep. Jim Moeller (Speaker Pro Tempore), Rep. Luis Moscoso, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (Deputy Majority Whip), Rep. Chris Reykdal, and Rep. Jessyn Farrell (Asst. Majority Whip).

Representative Roger Goodman, Chair of the House Public Safety Committee, has confirmed that he will give the proposal a public hearing. The House Public Safety Committee is the first committee the bill will be assigned to in the House.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an international nonprofit reform group, has officially endorsed the proposal, and will be working to get it approved into law.

The Columbian has come out in favor of this measure, calling it a “pragmatic stance”.

Under Washington State law, the possession of any amount of a controlled substance, or over 40 grams of cannabis, is a felony charge with a potential five-year prison sentence. Advocates contend that this is a failed policy, which leads to an overcrowding of prisons at taxpayer expense. The proposed law would reduce these charges to misdemeanors, without altering any penalties for distribution or manufacturing of an illegal substance. Minor laws would also remain unchanged.

The nonprofit organization Sensible Washington, the group behind the effort, plans to continue garnering public and legislative support in the coming months leading up to the start of the legislative session in January.

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