DENVER Legislators from the left and right moved Wednesday to reduce sentences for narcotics possession, saying the country needs a new approach to the war on drugs.
Most people left, right, center recognize that were not winning the war on drugs, said Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield.
Mitchell is one of four sponsors of Senate Bill 163, introduced Tuesday. It would reduce the charges for possession of less than 4 grams of most drugs from a Class 6 felony to a misdemeanor. Simple possession of more than 4 grams would be reduced from a Class 4 felony to a Class 6, bringing shorter sentences.
Methamphetamine possession would have a lower threshold of 2 grams to qualify as a misdemeanor, because the drug is so addictive and such a societal problem, said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, another one of the sponsors.
The House sponsors are Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield. The four rank among the ideological leaders of their parties, and they said they expect the bill to pass and be signed into law.
A study by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition showed that 60 percent of people doing time on drug charges were sentenced for possession, at a cost of nearly $10 million per year.
The bill directs any savings from prison costs to go into drug-treatment programs.
Democratic sponsors said the war on drugs has saddled too many people with felony convictions, which Steadman called a sentence to life without employment.
Addiction is something a person can overcome. Felony convictions are much more difficult to deal with. We dont need to keep on making more people into felons, Steadman said.
Attorney General John Suthers has not taken a position on SB 163.