Commissioners had an Option to Usher in Mandatory Pre Trial Diversion and Education for First Time Offenders but DA’s Reluctant to Relinquish Power
DENVER—Today, the Colorado Commission on Crime and Juvenile Justice narrowly voted to maintain criminal charges for first-time marijuana possessors under the age of 21. Commissioners had an option to recommend the state mandate first time offenders have the option to complete an education course before entering a plea in order to secure a full dismissal of the case. On the heels of taxing and regulating marijuana in Colorado, the voting group of primarily law enforcement personnel voted this down option while raising fines for youth convicted of three or more marijuana related charges.
Art Way, senior drug policy manager in Colorado for the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“One of the Commission’s goals is to investigate alternatives to incarceration, and they failed on this point. There was an option on the table to provide a uniform approach to underage marijuana possession and use based on automatic diversion, record sealing and education. Unfortunately, it was passed over for an option that allows DA’s to continue to criminalize young first time offenders, if they so choose.
“What we saw today is evidence of the biggest hurdle to establishing drug policy as a public health issue, and the unwillingness of DA’s to relinquish the option to criminalize drug use. Their increasing, self-serving power and uneven use of discretion is part of the race and class disparities evident in the failed drug war, and the criminal justice system as a whole.”