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.