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May 19

A Colorado bill fighting for passage would reduce the penalties for small amounts of controlled substances is running into stiff opposition in the Colorado State Legislature. The Bill – Senate Bill 163 – provides for a more compassionate and intelligent view of the possession of controlled substances and “reworks” the country’s view of the so called “war on Drugs.”

The present introduction to the bill says it all:

The sentencing scheme shall consider:

Development of a sentencing structure that better differentiates drug offenders who are primarily users and addicts from those more serious offenders who are involved in drug distribution, manufacturing, or trafficking;

Development of resources through changes in the criminal code that will enhance intervention, supervision, and treatment in the community and enhance public safety by addressing drug abuse and addiction and by decreasing crime through drug abuse recovery;

Methods by which offenders can gain access to assessment-based treatment services that are based on treatment need regardless of the level or classification of the crime;

Creation of equivalent penalties for crimes that pose similar risks to public safety;

Enhancement of penalties when behaviors clearly present a public safety risk;

Development of resources for additional pre-filling diversion programs around the state for drug offenders;

Use of drug courts and how legislative changes could support more effective use of those resources;

But the bill is being attacked by law enforcement in the form of Denver DA Mitch Morrissey.

While supporters of the bill argued that under the new law fewer drug addicts serving long prison sentences and to use the savings to provide them treatment, Morrissey’s position was that the bill would effectively dismantle Denver’s drug court and cut off access to the treatment it provides.

Morrissey asserted that the bill would gut the effectiveness of the drug court because drug court would not be available under the reduced penalties.

Republican Senator Shawn Mitchell said this “The war on drugs has made government more powerful, citizens less free, and hasn’t helped users or addicts,” he says. “I want to push a smarter effort against drugs. I want to stop piling people into prisons and stop branding people with a felony for a personal weakness.”

The war on drugs has made government more powerful, citizens less free, and hasn’t helped users or addicts,” Mitchell said. “I want to push a smarter effort against drugs. I want to stop piling people into prisons and stop branding people with a felony for a personal weakness.”

H. Michael’s Take

This bill deserves our support – it just makes sense.

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