CO Penalties For Some Drug Possession To Decrease
DENVER (AP) ― Penalties for some illegal drug use and possession will decrease in Colorado, with more focus placed on treatment and rehabilitation under a bill expected to be signed by Gov. Bill Ritter.
Under the bill, testing positive for drugs drops from a felony to a misdemeanor, while possessing drugs such as heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy for personal use would carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison instead of six years.
However, possessing the date rape drug Rohypnol, also known as "roofies," the rave party drug ketamine, or Special K, and methamphetamine would remain felonies carrying a maximum six-year sentence.
"Nobody should have a personal amount of Rohypnol," said Don Quick, district attorney for Adams County. "We want those guys, and it is guys, to be afraid of having this drug on them."
The bill also increases penalties for drug dealers and manufacturers.
Ritter was expected to sign the bill Tuesday at a Lakewood law enforcement training center.
"It makes a distinction that there are those individuals that prey on the addictions of others — the distributors, the sellers, the makers — versus those who are addicts who are being driven by their addiction," said Department of Public Safety Executive Director Peter Weir.
The bill commits $1.5 million of expected savings in incarceration costs to treatment and rehabilitation.
In coming years, the changes in sentencing, probation and parole were expected to save the state $3.6 million a year.
Under the bill, dealers and manufacturers of illegal drugs face a felony charge carrying a prison term of up to 12 years. Those who import drugs into the state or use guns face up to 48 years in prison.
The bill also increases penalties for dealing to minors and adds a minimum four-year prison sentence for adults who give any amount of marijuana to a child under the age of 15.
Ritter was also expected to sign legislation giving judges greater discretion in allowing nonviolent offenders to be put on probation; require minimum jail time for repeat drunken driving offenders; and create guidelines to determine which prisoners are eligible for parole.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers called the changes "pragmatic."
Suthers also had success at the Legislature in closing a loophole that allowed employees and volunteers to avoid prosecution for having sex with inmates older than 18 at juvenile detention centers.
May 24, 2010
P. SOLOMON BANDA,
Associated Press Writer
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