(CBS4) – Some prosecutors are sounding an alarm over a new law that makes possession of four grams or less of almost all drugs a misdemeanor. State Rep. Lesley Herod, the sponsor of the law, says it’s aimed at making sure drug addicts get treatment rather than imprisonment.
“What we’re looking to do is say if you are an addict, if you have a problem, we need to get you help. We don’t need to just incarcerate ourselves out of this mess,” Herod said.
The bill does make some exceptions. Any amount of date rape drugs or bath salts are still felonies. Herod says it’s too difficult to determine if those drugs are for rape or personal use. But Tom Raynes, head of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council argues the drug fentanyl should also be exempted. As little as 2 to 3 milligrams of fentanyl is deadly and 4 grams, prosecutors say, is 13,000 deadly doses.
“We’re not looking to incarcerate addicts. We’re looking to incarcerate the people who kill them and that’s the dealers in fentanyl,” Raynes said.
Herod says the law doesn’t protect dealers — only users — from felonies.
“A prosecutor worth its salt would be able to prosecute that if someone has that amount of drugs on them, knowing that it’s a lethal amount,” Herod said.
Raynes says unless there is evidence of distribution — bags or scales, for example — it’s hard to prove.
“Why would you create that impediment to prosecution for a purveyor of death? I would suggest that some of these prosecutors who actually handle these cases should be talked to before such an assumption is made.”
He says if Herod is serious about treatment, she needs to get serious about funding.
The bill allocates nearly $2 million, but Raynes says it would redirect more than 10,000 people from prison to rehab.
“To merely do criminalization without providing the adequate resources for addicts, for the users, is just a total disregard for community safety and health,” Raynes said.
Herod says she has already made several changes at the request of prosecutors.
“They want change something before we can see how it works? I think that’s disingenuous,” Herod said.
The new law takes effect March 1, but one lawmaker already plans to introduce a bill to amend it.