Did you know that as of the beginning of March, Colorado no longer considers personal possession of schedule 1 and 2 narcotics to be a felony? Neither did we, but it’s true.
In May of 2019, Governor Jared Polis quietly signed House Bill 19-1263 into law, and it just officially went into effect. The bill reduces the punishment for personal possession of controlled substances such as cocaine, DMT, and LSD. They’re all still illegal – this isn’t your cue to start doing lines while in line at the post office. But if caught with less than four grams of something, Coloradans can no longer be jailed and they’ll face reduced penalties and fines.
“If they’re still illegal, why does this matter?” I can hear you asking. “I’ll still get in trouble if the fuzz finds me with an eight-ball of coke.”
Well, inquisitive coke-user, a misdemeanor is a much less severe mark on your criminal record than a felony would be and is less likely to keep popping up, hurting your job prospects and other parts of your life in the long-term. If you’re offered a hit of something at a party and get caught, you’re not as screwed as you would have been before the law went into effect.
The law does not, however, wash away your past record for drug possession violations. So if you got busted with a ten-strip of acid this time last year and were already charged with a felony for it, that’s still going to follow you around for a while. Sorry. Talk to your lawmaker about doing something about that as well.
Meanwhile, on the macroscopic level, this could end up reducing the number of drug offenders who get incarcerated and thus reducing the cost to the state’s resources. Over the next five years, it ought to save Colorado between $8.3 million and $13 million, according to the Joint Budget Committee. So hooray for that.
“We’re going to see hundreds of people each year who will no longer be put in state prisons with a felony offense,” said Leslie Herod, who represents the state’s eighth house district, according to the Boulder Weekly. “This will help move people towards getting the help that they need.”
Herod said the state has already started putting millions of dollars toward treatment and rehabilitation. So it’s not like the state isn’t doing anything to fight its drug problems; it’s just redirecting its resources toward fixing its problems in a more meaningful way.
In the meantime, not automatically being considered a felon may reduce the stigma placed upon drug users, allowing them to go about their lives like normal without the fear of being judged for the rest of their lives. They could ... *gasp* ... start to fit in with everyone else.
You can rest a little bit easier – when you finally come down, that is – all you of you molly users keeping Colorado’s EDM scene alive. Shuffle the night away knowing you’re not going to jail, unless you try to sell it.