The 2015 legislative session in Olympia is right around the corner, which

The 2015 legislative session in Olympia is right around the corner, which means it’s time for Sensible Washington, and a host of like-minded liberal lawmakers, to gear up for yet another attempt to defelonize drug possession in Washington.

They’ve tried this before, of course. Just last year, in fact, HB 2116 was floated as an avenue to remove felony charges for small-time drug possession offenses and reduce the crime to a misdemeanor. And while, as Sensible Washington noted in a press release at the time, the bill “received enough support in the House Public Safety Committee to be approved, according to Representative Roger Goodman, Chair of the committee,” it was nonetheless left to die there. So it goes with these sorts of endeavors.

But you have to admire persistence, and those engaged in this fight have shown plenty of it. As was trumpeted this morning via a press release from Sensible Washington spokesperson Anthony Martinelli, this session’s HB 1024, which is supported by the ACLU of Washington, according to spokesperson Doug Honig, and sponsored by State Rep. Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo, has been green-lighted for a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee on Jan. 16.

Just like previous efforts, HB 1024, according to the press release, would make personal drug possession charges – cocaine, heroin, meth, whipits, etc. – a simple misdemeanor, while crimes “involving distribution or manufacturing drugs, and any charge involving minors, would remain unaltered.”

“I believe the time is appropriate now. We see that prosecutions for simple possession for marijuana are no longer clogging our courts, and we can see the savings to each county’s criminal justice budget,” Appleton tells Seattle Weekly. “There are others who now languish in prison for simple possession of other drugs. These people are not criminals – they have a sickness that should be treated and it makes no sense that for simple possession a person’s life is ruined forever: no job, no housing, no college, no military service.

“If someone is dealing, manufacturing and making a profit out of the misery of others, then there should be severe consequences. But when you see the stats on incarceration rates in this country – 791 per 100,000 persons, more than any other country in the world – we need to re-evaluate how we deal with these offenses,” she continues. “I would rather see the savings go to education.”

“Defelonizing personal drug possession is a smart, pragmatic approach to reducing the harms associated with the drug war”, Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D, 46th District), argued in November. “The move would reduce incarceration, save the state millions of dollars, and prevent thousands of individuals from receiving a permanent and costly felony record.”

They’ve got very valid points, of course, and compelling arguments well worth considering. But whether these efforts get any more traction in Olympia this year than they’ve received in the past remains to be seen.