When a state starts to look at drug charges as a whole, sometimes it finds that criminalizing drug abuse isn’t the answer. That’s what has happened in Colorado, where a law was put into place to reduce the penalties faced by those who were caught and charged with drug crimes.
If you face drug charges, sometimes the answer is not time in jail but instead addiction treatment or correction services. The law states that those who are convicted for possession and had only a small amount of drugs could reduce their felonies to misdemeanors if they were willing to complete their court orders and community corrections sentence.
This change doesn’t necessarily lead to drug abuse treatments, which some people disagree with. However, the judge presiding over the case has the ability to determine if the convicted person should receive drug addiction treatment or not. It’s also up to the judge to determine if and when probation has been completed, so those who haven’t met the guidelines of the sentence can’t go free without doing so.
In the past, people have been charged and convicted of low-level drug offenses but were penalized harshly. This law helps differentiate between drug users and dealers. Additionally, there are currently laws in place that could require drug offenders to receive treatment to get their charges dismissed; this law does conflict with the other, but that can be used to the benefit of each individual case as necessary.
Overall, the law is good. It helps keep felonies off the records of those who need addiction treatment and help. With a felony, these people would instead find it difficult to find a job or get housing, which doesn’t help stop the problem.
Source: KRDO, “New Colorado law reduces penalties for all drug crimes,” Lindsay Watts, accessed May 26, 2016