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.
Next in the series: Sentencing and judicial discretion.