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Sacramento eyes lower drug sentences for cocaine, heroin

by AirTalk

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State Senator Mark Leno proposed SB-649 to ease the sentencing for cocaine and heroin possession. Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Twenty states have legalized the use of medical marijuana and there seems to be a general move of leniency toward recreational drug use and simple possession of hard drugs in the country.

Senate Bill 649 in California, sponsored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), is the latest example of this trend. The proposal would give prosecutors the option to charge those with a small amount of cocaine, heroin and synthetic marijuana with a demeanor instead of a felony. Leno says California should follow the lead of 13 states with similar laws in place. He says by lowering charges, these states have funneled more offenders into drug rehab programs and reduced crime.

Proponents include the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU, which say that the minority kids are disproportionately harmed by the current law. Opponents like the California District Attorney Association and the California Police Chiefs Association say the bill could have the opposite effect.

Should drug sentences be lowered for those in possession of a small quantity of cocaine or heroin? Does the bill condone the use of hard drugs? Would it perpetrate hard drug use?


Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group for drug law reform

Cory Salzillo, Director of Legislation, California District Attorneys Association

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