Patt Morrison

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Possessing drugs for personal use could be classified a misdemeanor, not a felony

by Patt Morrison

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Packages containing confiscated cocaine are seen at a press conference on March 4, 2012 in Hamburg, Germany. Joern Pollex/Getty Images

Will reducing the personal possession of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor help California’s budget woes?

Senator Mark Leno (D-California) thinks so. Leno’s bill, SB 1506, is due for a vote within the next three weeks, and if it passes, SB 1506 would set the maximum penalty for personal possession to one year in a county jail, instead of three years in a state prison.

Leno estimates this will result in a $159 million savings for California counties and $64 million for the state. The senator stresses that “the legislation will not change the penalties for sale, possession for sale, or manufacture.”

The California District Attorneys’ Association, along with several other professional organizations, has come out against the bill, arguing that both the California Penal Code and Proposition 36 already allow for plenty of opportunity for rehabilitation, that SB 1506 will unfairly shift the financial and maintenance burden of facilitating such prisoners entirely to the counties, and that the shift in enforcement would cause an increase in crimes associated with substance addiction, such as property theft.

WEIGH IN:

Do you support the bill? Would you like to see fewer tax dollars spent on prisons?

Guests:

Cory Salzillo, director of legislation, California District Attorney's Association (CDAA)

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