President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 46 drug offenders, saying in a video posted online Monday that the men and women were not “hardened criminals” and their punishments didn’t match the crimes they committed. Obama said the move was part of his larger attempt to reform the criminal justice system, including reviewing sentencing laws and reducing punishments for non-violent crimes.

More than 2.2 million adults are imprisoned in the United States, the most in the world, and the incarceration rate is between five and 10 times higher than in Western European countries, according to the National Research Council. More than 100,000 people are currently in federal prison for drug-related crimes, at a cost of about $30,000 per person each year, the United States Sentencing Commission said in a May report.

In Washington State, Drug offenses are considered to be a Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act (VUCSA). Among charges included in VUCSA are Possession, Distribution and the Manufacture of Controlled Substances. Washington has classified “controlled substances” into “Schedules,” which are Schedules I through IV. In Washington, many drug offenses are felonies. Prescription drugs can also be considered controlled substances.

Here in Washington State, a person caught with a small amount of cocaine or heroin faces up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If caught with more than a small amount a person would face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. These are similar penalties for committing assault or other violent crimes.

Washington has legalized the use of recreational marijuana. But that doesn’t mean marijuana is completely legal. Washington has tight restrictions on it. You can still be arrested for a marijuana offense if you possess more than one ounce of marijuana, if you sale marijuana, grow marijuana or smoke it in public.

If you are caught with more than one once but less than 40 grams of marijuana, you face up to 90 days in jail and fines of $250-$500. If you are caught with more than 40 grams of marijuana, you face up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 fine.

You can also be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), if you have .05 nanograms or greater of THC in the blood. Those who are convicted face the same DUI penalties as one convicted of alcohol DUI.

If you have any questions about drug or DUI offenses or you are facing criminal charges in Kitsap, King, Pierce or another county, please contact Jeff Burleson for a free consultation.

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