Drug War

California Senator Introduces Bill to Reduce Drug Possession Crimes to Misdemeanors


Nifty-sounding new bill introduced into California Senate by Sen. Mark Leno. From his office's press release:

Senator Mark Leno introduced legislation that revises the penalty for simple drug possession under state law from a felony to a misdemeanor. The new legislation, SB 1506, does not apply to anyone involved in selling, manufacturing or possessing drugs for sale. The bill would help alleviate overcrowding in state prisons and county jails, ease pressure on California's court system and result in millions of dollars in annual savings for both state and local governments….

SB 1506 will significantly reduce prison and jail spending, allowing local and state government to dedicate resources to probation, drug treatment and mental health services that have proven most effective in reducing crime. It will also help law enforcement rededicate resources to more serious offenders. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates reducing penalties for drug possession will save counties about $159 million annually, in addition to yearly savings for the state totaling $64.4 million.

The bill is co-sponsored by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Drug Policy Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Across the country, 13 states, the District of Columbia, and federal laws treat drug possession as a misdemeanor. Drug crime is not higher in those states….

The bill will be heard in policy committees in the Senate this spring.

Truly sensible drug policy needs to aim at reducing legal penalties for sales of drugs as well, and just get the government out of the expensive and destructive business of regulating our choices on what we can eat. But it's an encouraging bill worth watching out for nonetheless.

Full text of the bill.

[Hat Tip: Drug Policy Alliance's Meghan Ralston]

Reason's copious archives on drug policy and the drug war.

NEXT: Mark Bittman: Government Is 'on Our Side' When It Stops Us From Eating What We Want to Eat

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  1. Assuming it passes, does anyone think there is a snowflake’s chance in the core of the sun that the DEA will pay attention?

    1. I imagine that most people busted for simple possession are arrested by the local/state PD and prosecuted at the state level.

      The second joint on your person bumps you up to possession with intent to distribute, at which point it probably goes federal.

      1. Would be nice if in order to convict someone of the intent to distribute they would have to you know prove intent rather than using an abritary amount of possesion.

        1. Domineering tyrants? Rational? HA! You’re one hell of a dreamer.

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  2. “snowflake’s chance in the core of the sun” I love that phrase.

  3. Unfortunately, it probably won’t pass because of “what about the children?”

    1. Tim meet Tim. Tim, Tim.Tim, Tim.

    2. but but what about teh darkies?

  4. Maybe the drug offenses are starting to hit close to home.



  6. At least when candy is illegal the fat little bastards will be easier to catch.

  7. Good incremental improvement.

    What amount of drugs gets you bumped up to “possessing with intent to distribute” in CA?

  8. Legislation like this is why there are committees.

    Never let it out of committee and it never comes to a vote.

  9. “A divided Ninth Circuit upheld a California law requiring people arrested for felonies to provide a DNA sample to police.”

    One step forward, two steps back

  10. Any comment yet from the prison guards’ unions? I bet they have an opinion on this.

  11. SB 1506 will significantly reduce prison and jail spending, allowing local and state government to dedicate resources to probation, drug treatment and mental health services that have proven most effective in reducing crime.

    Since when do we genuinely care about reducing crime? A lower crime rate would weaken one of our favorite pretexts for restricting freedom.

  12. 14.8 million reasons why the bill will fail:

    “CCA spent $14.8 million lobbying the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of Management and Budget, the Bureau of Prisons, both houses of Congress, and others between 2003 and 2010.”

  13. Senator Leno’s a damned racist. He just wants all the underprivileged minorities to kill each other over drugs so that whites rule everything. We have to keep drugs out of our pure, safe society!

    /California statist.

    1. Not a’now for the songs of a nation’s wrongs,
      Not the groans of starving labor.
      Let the rifle ring and the bullet sing to the clash of the flashing saber.
      There are Irish ranks on the tented banks of Columbia’s guarded ocean,
      And an iron clank from flank to flank tells of armed men in motion.

      *DEA raid*

      And frank souls there, clear, true, and bare,
      To all, as the steel beside them,
      Can love or hate withe the strength of fate,
      ‘Till the grave of the valiant hide them.

      With pale affright and panic flight
      Shall dastard Yankees base and hollow.
      Hear a Celtic race, from their battle place,
      Charge to the shout of “Faugh-a-ballaugh!”
      By the souls above, by the land we love,
      Her tears bleeding patience,
      The sledge is wrought that shall smash to naught
      The brazen liar of nations.

  14. Truly sensible drug policy needs to aim at reducing legal penalties for sales of drugs as well…

    True, but I’ll take an tiny scrap of progress we can get.

  15. If pot is decriminalized except in arbitrary circumstances in which it will still be considered a crime (and we all know that government is never capricious in its application of arbitrary caveats to laws) what’s the point of voting for full scale legalization?

    /CA Rationalization

    They did the exact same thing 2 years ago when legalization was on the ballot. They introduced a decriminalization bill. It’s nothing more than an attempt to undercut any legalization attempts.

  16. While incremental progress is welcome, a total rethinking of the war on drugs is required if we are going to deal with the carnage of this misguided effort to stamp out drug use. Total decriminalization is the only sensible solution. Let properly licensed vendors sell narcotics and channel the now wasted money on interdiction, law enforcement, prosecution, and prisons into drug treatment programs, as Portugal has done.

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