Colorado bill hopes to remove all felony marijuana possession charges

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The changes are similar to what has already occurred in five other states

A bill currently being discussed by Colorado lawmakers could change the history of thousands of state residents. If it’s approved, individuals who have been convicted of possessing more than 12 ounces of marijuana – a felony in the state – would see their records expunged. Additionally, across the board, penalties associated with drug possession would be substantially reduced.

The bill was introduced last Friday by Representative Leslie Herod. It is also sponsored by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and two other lawmakers, and would lower the penalties for drug possession misdemeanors and remove felony marijuana charges from individuals’ records. The bill is designed to reduce overcrowding in prisons, as well as to reduce the amount of money spent on corrections.

Herod states of the bill, “It’s time to take away this whole notion that we have to incarcerate to provide treatment.” She believes drug use is a public health issue, not a crime, and the mission statement of the bill reads, “This sentencing scheme recognizes that drug use and possession is primarily a health concern and should be treated as such by Colorado courts.”

The bill doesn’t change the punishments for crimes such as possession with intent to distribute, and would not be applied retroactively. It does, however, allow individuals charged with felony possession to request their records be sealed after completing their sentences, and to also apply to have a felony sentence vacated and replaced with a misdemeanor charge under certain circumstances.

The bill asserts that no one could be arrested for possessing less than two ounces of marijuana. It also removes the possibility of jail time for a first or second conviction relating to the abuse of toxic vapors, which is a misdemeanor. Additionally, prosecutors would not be able to charge individuals with possession of drugs when residue is found on drug paraphernalia, and a grant program would be created for counties to implement misdemeanor drug courts.