In the final week of Colorado’s legislative sessions, while all the attention was focused on passing marijuana commerce regulations, the state legislature quietly passed a measure designed to reduce the number of drug offenders sent to prison and save the state money. Senate Bill 250 had passed the Senate in April, the House passed it with amendments last Friday, and the Senate concurred with the House version Monday.
The bill creates a separate sentencing system for drug offenders and allows people convicted of some felony drug charges to be sentenced to probation and community-based sentencing and see that felony charge changed to a misdemeanor conviction upon completion of probation.
It also creates an “exhaustion of remedies” requirement for some drug offenders. That means they must have already participated in several other forms of treatment and sentencing before being sentenced to prison.
Those and other reform provisions in the bill will save the state of Colorado $5 million a year, according to the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Some 550 offenders a year will be able to avoid prison sentences for their drug offenses under the new law, according to a legislative analysis.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Sen. Steve King (R), sponsor of the bill. “It starts to deal with addiction issues and getting them off drugs.”
The governor is expected to sign the bill shortly.
By Phillip Smith