House Bill 1024, filed by Representative Sherry Appleton on December 8th, would remove felony charges for the personal possession of illegal substances, reducing the charge to a simple (non-gross) misdemeanor. According to an official fiscal note for an identical bill, the proposal would save the state millions of dollars each year, would free up prison space and would prevent over 9,000 nonviolent, drug-related felonies from occurring each year. Charges involving distribution or manufacturing drugs, and any charge involving minors, would remain unaltered.
Defelonizing personal drug possession in Washington State is officially supported by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a coalition of thousands of current and former law enforcement professionals, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Washington CURE and the ACLU of Washington.
Legislative supporters include Rep. June Robinson (Assistant Majority Whip), Rep. Luis Moscoso, Rep. Chris Reykdal, Rep. Jim Moeller (Speaker Pro Tempore), Rep. Jessyn Farrell, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (Deputy Majority Whip), King County Councilor Dave Upthegrove and Senator Jeannie Kohl-Welles.
House Bill 1024 has been placed in the House Public Safety Committee, and has been scheduled for a public hearing on January 16th at 10AM. Identical legislation from the 2014 session – House Bill 2161 – received a public hearing in the same committee, with not a single individual or organization speaking in opposition to the measure.
During the 2014 general election, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 47, a similar proposal to Washington’s bill, which removed felony charges for many drug-related offenses.