Colorado HB 1352: Concerning Changes to Crimes Involving Controlled Substances

The following is a legislative summary of HB10-1352, a drug sentencing reform bill.  The summary is from The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC), a group that helped develop the bill as part of the drug policy taskforce of  the  Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justivce.

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Source:  CCJRC email, 2/24/10

HB 1352: Concerning Changes to Crimes Involving Controlled Substances
Sponsors: Representative Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) and Senators Pat Steadman (D-Denver) and Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) with cosponsors Representatives Pace (D-Pueblo), Court (D-Denver), Gardner B. (R-Colorado Springs), Gerou (R-Jefferson County), Kagan (D-Denver), King S. (R-Grand Junction), Levy (D-Boulder), Looper (R-El Paso), Massey (R-Poncha Springs), May (R-Douglas), McCann (D-Denver), Miklosi (D-Denver), Nikkel (R-Loveland), Roberts (R-Durango), Ryden (D-Arapahoe), Stephens (R-Colorado Springs) and Senators M. Carroll (D-Aurora), Hudak (D-Jefferson), Morse (D-Colorado Springs), Newell (D-Littleton), Penry (R-Grand Junction), White (R-Garfield/Eagle).

This drug sentencing reform bill is based on recommendations approved by the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. After reviewing the drug laws, practices, and research, the Commission concluded that drug laws and strategies would be improved by more clearly differentiating between those drug offenders who are primarily users and addicts from the more serious offenders who engage in the crimes of distribution, manufacturing and trafficking of drugs.

For those drug offenders who are primarily users and addicts, the Commission determined that intervention and treatment in the community would be a more effective use of resources than the current escalating system of punishment that often results in a prison sentence. For these offenders, it was recognized that the current structure and approach to prosecuting these drug crimes is frequently ineffective in reducing recidivism and curbing addiction and that a primary omission from current law is a means of assuring prompt and effective treatment of drug offenders.

The Commission also determined that penalties for several drug distribution offenses should be increased and that two provisions of the special drug offender statute should be clarified.

What the Bill Does:

Drug possession offenses

  • Creates a separate statute for the crime of possession of drugs.
  • Reduces the crime of drug use from a class 6 felony to a misdemeanor
  • Redefines the quantity of drugs that is considered “simple possession” from 1 gram or less to 4 grams or less of a schedule I or II drug   and 2 grams or less of methamphetamine. “Simple possession” would be a class 6 felony.
  • Standardizes that possession for personal use of amounts greater than “simple possession” quantities is a class 4 felony.
  • Reduces possession of schedule III-V drugs (i.e. prescription drugs) to a misdemeanor.
  • Reduces the penalty for fraud and deceit in connection with controlled substances from a class 5 to a class 6 felony.
  • Requires cost savings from this bill to be evaluated annually by the division of criminal justice and reported to the legislature and that some of the cost savings will be allocated to expand and enhance substance abuse treatment.

If there is evidence that even small quantities of drugs are possessed with the intent to distribute, prosecutors can still file a criminal charge of drug distribution at any quantity of drugs.

Offenses related to marijuana

  • Redefines the quantity of marijuana possession that determines crime classifications at various levels including possession of under 2 ounces (petty offense), possession of between 2 – 6 ounces (class 2 misdemeanor), possession of between 6-12 ounces (class 1 misdemeanor), and possession of over 12 ounces (class 6 felony).
  • Redefines the quantity of marijuana concentrate possession that determines crime classification at various levels including possession of under 3 ounces (class 1 misdemeanor) and possession of over 3 ounces (class 6 felony).
  • Creates a graduated penalty for marijuana cultivation including cultivation of less than 6 plants (class 1 misdemeanor), cultivation of between 7-29 plants (class 5 felony) and cultivation of 30 or more plants (class 4 felony).

Increasing penalties for drug distribution

  • Creates a new crime of distribution of schedule I or II drugs by an adult to a minor (class 3 felony) and if the adult is more than 2 years older than the minor, imposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
  • Increases the crime level to a class 3 felony and imposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence for distribution (even without remuneration) of marijuana or marijuana concentrate by an adult to a minor less than 15 years old.
  • Increases the crime classification for distribution of ketamine (aka “date rape drug”) to a class 3 felony.

Clarifies two provisions within the Special Offender drug law (enhanced sentencing 8-48 years)

  • Requires the quantity of drugs to be greater than the “simple possession” amount to be considered importation of drugs into the state.
  • Enhances sentences when a deadly weapon is on a defendant’s person or his within immediate reach, when a firearm is within the defendant’s or confederate’s access in a manner that posed a risk to others or when a firearm is in a vehicle the defendant was occupying.

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