Bill would make some drug crimes misdemeanors

One lawmaker is trying to establish an escalating scale of punishment for certain drug possession crimes, similar to what Alaska has for those convicted of driving under the influence.

SB56, by Sen. Fred Dyson, would make the possession of a small amount of certain drugs a misdemeanor if a person has not been convicted of more than two drug-related offenses.

Currently, the possession of any amount of certain drugs, like heroin, is a felony.

In his sponsor statement, Dyson said the fastest-growing segment of Alaska’s prison population is that of nonviolent offenders, many of whom have been convicted on drug or alcohol related charges.

He said he hopes the bill would help solve overcrowding in Alaska’s prisons and “skyrocketing” costs of incarceration.