Appleton chief name on bill to remove felony tag on possession of small amounts of drugs.

State Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, plans to be the prime sponsor during the 2014 legislative session on a bill that turn possession drugs in small amounts into a misdemeanor.

Sensible Washington, an organization that has backed relaxed drug laws (but not Initiative 502, which voters passed in November) is pushing the bill and announced Tuesday that Appleton would be the primary sponsor in the House. She will be joined by Vancouver’s Jim Moeller, Joe Fitzgibbon of Burien, Chris Reykdal of Tumwater and Jesslyn Farrell of Seattle have agreed to be cosponsors. All are Democrats.

The bill would turn possession of more than 40 grams of marijuana and small amounts of other drugs into a misdemeanor, unless prosecutors can prove there was an intent to distribute the drugs. The maximum jail sentence would be 90 days.

Sensible Washington plans to find sponsors in the Senate to file a companion bill.

Over the years Appleton had sponsored multiple bills that would decriminalize marijuana.

Sensible Washington’s press release follows.

PRESS RELEASE: WA Proposal to Defelonize Personal Drug Possession to be Prefiled in December
A proposal to remove felony charges for personal drug possession in Washington State will be prefiled in the House of Representatives this December, with State Representative Sherry Appleton (23rd District) as the primary sponsor. Representatives Jim Moeller (Speaker Pro Tempore, 49th District), Joe Fitzgibbon (34th District), Chris Reykdal (22nd District) and Jessyln Farrell (Assistant Majority Whip, 46th District) will be among those cosponsoring the proposal.

Sensible Washington, the nonprofit organization behind the effort, is in talks with numerous other lawmakers and plans to have a companion bill filed in the Senate.

Under current Washington State law, the possession of over 40 grams of cannabis, or a minuscule amount of any other controlled substance, is a felony charge with a potential 5 year prison sentence. This new proposal would alter the law so that these possession charges would be misdemeanors (with a 90 day maximum sentence), unless intent to distribute is proven. This would greatly decrease the social and economic impact of felonizing low-level drug offenses, which leads to the mass imprisonment of nonviolent individuals at taxpayer expense.
“The public understands that our drug laws are failing, and that action needs to be taken,” says Anthony Martinelli, Sensible Washington’s Communications Director, “defelonization is a major step in fixing these laws, while also accounting for those in the public who want illegal drugs to remain illegal.”

Sensible Washington is in the process of building further public and legislative support for the proposal, and will be announcing more cosponsors in the coming days and weeks.


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