DENVER - On Tuesday, Colorado lawmakers heard testimony on House Bill 1263, which would make it a misdemeanor and no longer a felony to possess illegal drugs.
It is not decriminalization, but it is an effort to have fewer Coloradans in state prison.
The bill does not address distribution of drugs, which means it will still be a felony to sell illegal products.
“They could still get up to 120 days - 180 days in some instances - so they could still go to jail, hard time. The question is: Do we put them in DOC where there are no resources for them, or do we allow them the opportunity to go through drug court a different way?,” Rep. Leslie Herod, a sponsor of the measure, said.
Many sheriffs - like Bill Elder in El Paso County - disagree with the approach, fearing the result could mean more people in jail instead of prisons.
“We are in the middle of an opioid crisis and we are going to take all the schedule-two drugs that are opioids and cocaine and methamphetamine and all the other drugs that are so deadly dangerous, and now we are going to make them misdemeanor,” Elder said.
He said the proposal would be unfair to local authorities.
“It doesn’t make sense at all,” Elder said.