By Anthony Martinelli, Communications Director, Sensible Washington
Sensible Washington recently kicked off a legislative effort to defelonize drug possession in Washington State, a move which we believe to be a considerable step in reducing some of the harms associated with the war on drugs.
Although this effort won't end the drug war - that will come in time - it's a step in that direction, and will greatly reduce the social, economic and judicial burden associated with the felony prosecution of simple drug possession: In Washington State, the possession of any amount of a controlled substance - for cannabis, it's anything over 40 grams - is an automatic felony charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years.
Defelonization will reduce these charges to misdemeanors, with a maximum of 3 months.
After talking with several legislators in the state, we've found that this is a concept that lawmakers may be willing to grasp onto.
If we get this approved, we'll greatly decrease the over-incarceration that takes place in our prisons, due largely to the imprisonment of nonviolent drug offenders. This, in turn, will reduce the economic impact of the drug war, and will reduce the human element of labeling someone a felon - permanently altering their life, and likely throwing them in prison for a considerable amount of time - for simple drug possession.
If you're an advocate of defelonization, we urge you to get involved in helping make it happen. Contact your legislators, and ask them to support removing felony charges for personal drug possession; you can look up your district's legislator by clicking here (this works for anywhere in the U.S.).
If you're in Washington State, we need your support to help us get this new effort approved; contact us at info@sensiblewashington to get involved, or if you have any questions.
Beyond defelonization, Sensible Washington will also be putting their full support and efforts behind the passage of House Bill 1661, which will allow those prior convicted of a cannabis possession misdemeanor to have it expunged from their record. This measure was approved through two House committees this year, but time ran out before it was scheduled for a full House vote.
Advocates of the proposal - which has over 20 bipartisan cosponsors - will push for the legislation in the upcoming legislative session in January. If approved, this law will positively impact the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of individuals.