HB 49: Getting tough on drug dealers - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, August 26, 2019
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HB 49: Getting tough on drug dealers

SECOND IN THE ‘GETTING TOUGH’ SERIES

Right now in Alaska, there is effectively no jail time for drug possession offenses. If you’re caught with drugs, you are not going to jail, and you’re not going to get treatment. That means addicts have no incentive — neither carrot nor stick — to get cleaned up. Unbridled drug abuse and addition is what Senate Bill 91 brought to Alaska in 2016.

House Bill 49 is a rollback of SB 91, which was signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker.

HB 49 essentially takes drug possession and trafficking penalties back to pre-SB 91 levels.

The bill returns illegal drug possession to an arrestable crime, with a misdemeanor on the first offense with a possible one-year sentence, and a Class C felony on the second.

For drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and opioids, judges will be restored their ability to put offenders in prison for a year for first- and second-time possession. The third drug possession would be punishable by up to two years.

It also returns illegal drug distribution of the most dangerous drugs to Class B and A felonies, from the current (SB 91) Class B and C levels, and it removes quantity as a factor. If a person is distributing, they can’t skate because of a small quantity on them.

The law adds additional jail time beyond SB 91 levels for crimes of selling or producing illegal drugs near children.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which catalogued 400,000 prisoners over nine years across 30 states, 77 percent of released drug offenders were arrested again for non-drug-related offenses within nine years.

[Read: HB 49: Getting tough on sexual assault crimes]

Next in the series: Sentencing and judicial discretion.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Although I feel “locking up” some of these low level offenders will have a minimal effect on property crime, the trend in returning to a “Reaganesque” War on Drugs is going to cost the state $ millions of dollars (over the next several years) as we see increased hours on prosecutors and increased correction department staff and jail space…
    My primary concern from experience as a paramedic is that jail is no place for patients to detox.
    We saw this last year with the young girl who died in the Anchorage jail and then her family received a large financial settlement for a “wrongful death” from the state.
    The reality is many “druggies” are functional members of society and struggle with depression and other mental health problems that cause them to “self medicate”.
    Remember the GOP hero Rush Limbaugh who was discovered to have a medicine cabinet full of drugs he obtained from doctors and black market sources?
    “Many drugs, such as marijuana, opium, coca, and psychedelics have been used for thousands of years for both medical and spiritual purposes. So why are some drugs legal and other drugs illegal today? It’s not based on any scientific assessment of the relative risks of these drugs – but it has everything to do with who is associated with these drugs.”
    “The opioid epidemic can be understood in three waves.
    In the first wave, starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s, doctors prescribed a lot of opioid painkillers. That caused the drugs to proliferate to widespread misuse and addiction — among not just patients but also friends and family of patients, teens who took the drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets, and people who bought excess pills from the black market.”
    Get criminals off of the street, but let’s be sure members of our society can get the treatment they need since many have already caused a lot of pain to family and friends who have watched them become addicted to these drugs, many times starting with a pill bottle found in a medicine cabinet at home or a prescription from a family physician.

    http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/brief-history-drug-war

    • I am not really sure what you point is. Are you sayin we should have left SB 91 as it was?

      • Steve,
        The drug culture in America is much more complicated than SB 91 or HB 49.
        My years as a city medic taught me that this issue spans all of the social economic spectrum.
        Americans are the number one consumer of Cocaine in the world and most of the buyers are wealthy bankers.
        Without treating the causes that lead folks to “use”, all reform laws will just lead to fuller jails and a back log of cases.
        If you want a good book to read on the subject of drug use, I highly recommend a book called “Shooting Up” A short history of drugs and WAR…it is written by Kamienski.

  • This may seem callous, but I care less and less about drug users. They have put themselves on a very difficult path. They need to make some choices but they cannot expect others to pay for their problems. I do care if the drug users commit crimes; these folks need to go to prison. I will pay for that.

    There is not enough money in the world to pay for drug treatment for all that must use drugs. Drug treatment programs fail more often than they succeed. It is much like burning money. That is reality.

    Frankly, it may make sense to make sure drug users have a good steady supply of high-potency marijuana. It makes people docile, stupid and indolent. It may slow the progression to the crime-incubating drugs like opioids.

    • JMARK…
      Let’s not lose focus that Alcohol is still the #1 abused “Drug” in America.
      “In the United States, nearly 14 million adults, or every one in 13 adults, abuse alcohol or have an alcoholism problem. … Unfortunately more than seven percent of the American population aged 18 and up have a drinking problem; this is nearly 13.8 million Americans, and 8.1 million of them are alcoholic.”
      No one is suggesting that we “lock up” 8.1 million alcoholics, yet we prosecute those involved with drunk driving and other crimes against society.
      Many people forget that Alcohol is in fact a potent drug…
      “It is classed as a depressant, meaning that it slows down vital functions—resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perceptions and an inability to react quickly.
      As for how it affects the mind, it is best understood as a drug that reduces a person’s ability to think rationally and distorts his or her judgment.”
      I do not see a “war on drunks” even though anyone looking at the trooper dispatch can see that Alcohol is involved in almost all domestic violence and aggravated assault crimes in Alaska, along with many fatal motor vehicle accidents.
      https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol.html

      • I am not sure what you point may be. If drunk people commit violent or property crimes, prosecute them and send them to jail. Spending lots of public money trying to get them to stop drinking or even more money trying to treat them is a complete waste. Please stay away from my family and property.

        • JMARK,
          My point to you is that Alcohol is one of the worst drugs in society (due to the shear volume of abuse, availability and negative outcomes) yet it is not included in this current “War on Drugs” neither is attention to the causes which lead folks to the path of addiction.
          Adding good jobs to society, better social welfare programs and livable wages would all help lead citizens away from despair.
          Locking a family’s “bread winner” in prison for victimless crimes like “possession” does not help the overall situation or outcome of a family struggling to maintain their way.
          In understanding the complexity of drug use in America today, a little Empathy of what caused people to “use” can help at the end of the day.

  • then maybe the city can come get theses new drug winnebagos off our road ( boundary) before they effect all the children of muldoon…HELP us call them in, everyone call 311 if you see one in muldoon. thankyou from the kids of muldoon.

  • With respect, Madam Editor, one wonders, in the absence of a presumptive, vigorously enforced asset-forfeiture law, what precisely any of the aforementioned posturing idiocy is expected to accomplish.
    .
    No right or wrong answer to be sure, but one must ask…

  • The Alaska State Troopers are finally able to do their job again. 🙂

    The citizens of Alaska clearly changed the broken judicial system and now the criminals are in for a surprise. We can only do what we can as citizens, but it’s not enough, we must stay vigilant against criminals, help the Alaska State Troopers with videos, call in tips, etc.

    This will help tremendously in getting the criminals incarcerated where there sorry ass needs to be, no more “free get out of jail card” bullshit for them.

    Kudos to the governor who kept his campaign promise of change. 🙂