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Colorado Could Chop Drug Penalties

First California, now Colorado weighs a bill to greatly reduce penalties for all drug possession.

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By McCarton Ackerman

03/21/12

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Could felony charges for drug possession become a thing of the past? Just weeks after California introduced legislation that would reduce simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, Colorado has introduced a bill in its own Senate that would also cut penalties for possession offenses. The proposal—which has support from both parties—would downgrade possession of up to four grams of schedule I (like heroin, LSD and marijuana) or II (like cocaine and painkillers) substances, or two grams of methamphetamine, from a class six felony to a class one misdemeanor. The idea is to ensure drug offenders get treatment instead of prison, thus cutting the prison population and saving money. Republican Senator Shawn Mitchell, one of the bill's biggest advocates, has been open about his younger brother's meth addiction. "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." However, Colorado prosecutors oppose the legislation, saying the bill doesn't treat possession of drugs seriously enough. According to the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, 60% of all drug offenders imprisoned from August 2010 to November 2011 were convicted on possession charges. 

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