WASHINGTON: The nonprofit organization Sensible Washington announced today that they will be moving forward with new legislation designed to defelonize drug possession in the State of Washington. The group plans to have the proposal filed in the upcoming legislative session.
Under current Washington State law, the possession of any controlled substance (or over 40 grams of cannabis) is an automatic felony. Under this new proposal, the possession of a controlled substance – when not intended for distribution – would be reduced from a felony charge, to a misdemeanor (carrying a maximum sentence of 90 days, rather than 5 years). Laws regarding minors would not be affected.
“Removing felony charges for simple drug possession is a smart, pragmatic approach to reducing some of the harms associated with the war on drugs”, states Anthony Martinelli, Communications Director for Sensible Washington, “The goal is to stop labeling people as felons, filling up our prisons and ruining their lives in the process, for possessing a small amount of an illegal substance.”
Sensible Washington is currently in talks with the ACLU of Washington, strategizing ways to get the legislation passed into law; “We support the decriminalization of drug use”, says Alison Holcomb, Criminal Justice Project Director for the ACLU of Washington. “We’re looking forward to working in collaboration with Sensible and its allies to achieve that goal.”
Sensible Washington has been in discussion with several legislators who have shown support for the proposal – including State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, who has signed on as a cosponsor – and they hope to secure primary sponsors soon.
The group is currently activating its volunteer base to help build public and legislative support for the proposal between now and the legislative session in January.