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

May 19, 2012
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Police 'Operation Slab' Seize Methamphetamine And Weapons In Auckland

Detective Paul Baker holds two rocks of crystal meth with a street value of NZD$83,000 alongside firearms that were confiscated as part of Operation Slab at the North Shore Policing Centre on August 19, 2010 in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: Phil Walter/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.

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Do you support this type of effort to see fewer tax dollars spent on prisons, or do you think communities will suffer?

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