Marijuana Prisoners to be Released in Colorado?

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PHOTO: Jeffrey BeallCreative Commons

A news story posted earlier this week on the National Report website  read as follows:

Gov. John W. Hickenlooper (D) has proposed a bill that would have a major impact on the criminal justice system.  Under the new bill, convicts currently serving time on marijuana related charges will be released and the crime expunged from their records.

Within hours, cannabis-friendly sites were reposting the story, much to the joy of advocates nationwide.

Sounds too good to be true? Sadly, that’s because it’s not – the original National Report article was in fact a satire piece. But could something like this happen in Colorado, someday soon?

A budget proposal released by Hickenlooper last week projected that tax revenue from marijuana next fiscal year could reach nearly $100 million, far exceeding earlier estimates. Recreational retail sales are going smoothly, and there is no indication that the federal government intends to interfere. The Governor, however, has not exactly been  a vocal fan of  legalization, and it seems unlikely that this his views will change soon, despite its huge boon to the state’s economy.

But the fact remains: not only is the state generating revenue from marijuana sales, working in the industry has become a viable – and state-legal – employment option for Colorado citizens. It is undeniably ironic that while Colorado cannabis entrepreneurs are enjoying legalized business, many who engaged in the trade pre-legalization are suffering behind bars.

The original National Report story provided a link to contact Governor Hickenlooper in support of his alleged bill. Undoubtedly, the governor’s office was quickly flooded with communication from duped supporters. Interns and staffers are surely scratching their heads over the letters of thanks for a bill that doesn’t exist…But is it too “out there” to imagine that some of Hickenlooper’s staffers are wondering if this might actually not be a bad idea? Certainly, the irony of Colorado cannabis prisoners isn’t lost on them.

So perhaps advocates across the country should continue a letter-writing campaign – at the very least, Hickenlooper will be hearing about it, and he will undoubtedly pause, at least for a moment, to wonder if releasing cannabis prisoners just might be a sensible thing to do. At the very least, he’ll certainly recognize the irony in their imprisonment. As Colorado is already beginning to see the financial benefits of tax revenue, there would also be great financial benefit for the state in freeing non-violent prisoners – something that letter-writers might be wise to include in their commentary.

And as Colorado residents and legislators continue to see that the sky is not falling since legalized sales began, perhaps it’s not such a stretch to think Hickenlooper will realize that the sky still won’t fall if people who committed victimless “crimes” that are now legal are able to live freely in a state that is already a pioneer in reform.