By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Parolees in Washington might actually look forward to going back to the joint. The Department of Corrections announced that most of those released on parole, about 14,000 individuals, may now use marijuana without being subject to random testing. Recreational marijuana use is legal in Washington after voters passed Initiative 502.
Annmarie Alyward, DOC’s assistant secretary said, “We’re putting some changes into effect so that we won’t routinely test offenders in the community for THC.” Delta-9 THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana. “We don’t want them held to that level when, as a citizen, you wouldn’t be held to that level either. There’s no way the department of corrections is endorsing the use of marijuana. We are simply aligning with state law.”
This certainly represents a great departure from conventional community correction practices of the past.
Washington now is the only state in the United States that allows parolees to consume marijuana. Colorado, a state having legalized recreational marijuana, continues to prohibit its parolees from the use of the drug.
Some in the profession have expressed doubts. The union representing Washington community corrections officers is concerned this might lead to officer safety issues.
Bill Copeland of the Washington Association of Corrections Employees’ Committee said “We know that [marijuana use] can lead to behavior changes and other problems with the folks that are on supervision.”
According to the DOC, judges will have the authority to prohibit parolee marijuana use on a case-by-case basis, along with the DOC itself. The state will study the effect of this ruling in the future.
With the tight budgetary situation in the state in the past several years this might prove to be a cost saving measure. Now, the DOC will no longer, for the most part, investigate parole violations of those possessing small amounts of marijuana and experience the costs of transporting, housing and adjudicating parolees in parole suspension.
The cascading effects of marijuana legalization are just beginning.
By Darren Smith
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