The Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice has an idea to help reduce the state's prison population – making simple drug possession a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Our "Political Insiders" are split along partisan lines over whether Utah lawmakers might approve this change. 72% of Republicans say it's either "highly" or "somewhat likely" that lawmakers would go for the reduction in penalties, while just 43% of Democrats think so.
Selected anonymous comments:
"It's a great idea, and will therefore die in committee."
"It should happen, but the high and mighty morality police will never allow it to happen."
"Good policy and saving money line up in this case, so I think there is a good chance that something passes."
"I say somewhat likely, but I think it might take several years. This first year, they'll get used to the idea even being discussed, but they'll be cautious about the political backlash from uninformed partisan voters."
"As an optimist I hope the legislators will open their minds and see the long term value of pursuing this goal."
"The proposal is much too progressive and makes too much sense for the Utah legislature. A felony in Utah and legal next door. Go figure."
"Too many legislators take a simple black/white view of drug laws. The unfortunate consequence is that simple drug possession is treated as equivalent to cooking and distributing meth. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions; the Commission's recommendation is rightly seen as solving a minor part of a bigger problem. Whether legislators are willing to see that is another question altogether."
"Remember, reducing penalties will save lots of money if prison sentences can be reduced or eliminated. Lawmakers see the dollar signs that come with this change in the law."
"Stupid is as stupid does. I will not vote for any politician that thinks this is a good idea."
"Unfortunately, they will see this as a moral issue when it's truly a utilitarian issue based on scarce resources and a somewhat sophisticated understanding of criminal justice. Not this year."
"My fiscal conservative side is tugging harder at me than my social conservative side. I hope the legislature follows these recommendations to stop prison/jail/court overcrowding."
"They will probably form a commission to study the issue, but not act on anything for awhile."
"Most legislators have been in appropriations committees that have educated them why this is important. It's an economic issue to them."
"I think this is something the legislature would be open to but it will require a lengthy learning and discussion process. Unless a major developer points out it could help the prison relocation effort. Then it would pass without delay."