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California Bill Would De-Felonize Drug Possession

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #723)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

California state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill that reduce the penalties for possession of controlled substance from a felony to a misdemeanor. The bill, Senate Bill 1506, would also eliminate felony penalties for hashish, removing from prosecutors the option of charges such offenses as felonies. Hash is currently a "wobbler," meaning it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

black tar heroin
The bill would apply not only to Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, LSD, and MDMA, but also Schedule II-V "narcotic" drugs, including prescription opioid pain relievers, such as Fentanyl and Oxycontin.

Under current California law, drug possession can garner a sentence of two or three years. The Leno bill would make possession a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in county jail.

Current law also requires a person who is convicted of a specified controlled substance offense to register with the law enforcement agency of a city, county, or city and county within 30 days of becoming a resident of that city, county, or city and county. The Leno bill would remove that requirement for those convicted of misdemeanor hashish possession.

While many people convicted of drug possession manage to avoid prison in California, thanks to probation or diversion to treatment, thousands of others do not. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's 2009 report on prisoners and parolees (the latest available), of the more than 28,000 drug offenders imprisoned in the state, more than 10,000 were doing time for drug possession alone, and 51 for hash.

The bill, which was introduced last Friday, has yet to be assigned to a committee.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Ralph Wylie (not verified)

There is too much money at stake for the court, prison and law enforcement communities to pass up. They would have to go back to stopping kid's Lemonade stands, public smoking and drinking other crimes against society for revenue. The Nanny State has to have income to exist.

Thu, 03/01/2012 - 1:29pm Permalink
Carmen Brown (not verified)

There are pros and cons to every law that reduces penalties, yet retains the right of the government to dictate consensual behavior. This bill seems like a step in the right direction, if liberty is the goal. 

Thu, 03/01/2012 - 1:38pm Permalink
bostonjake (not verified)

you mean there is still such a creature as a politician that thinks?????? thank you for even trying to get some semblance of truth out there. when will we wake to the facts that it is the laws that kill and cause the troubles not the drugs themselves!!!!!! 2 million inside what is the cost of that?? and not just in dollars! the cost is just too damn high!

Sat, 03/17/2012 - 5:57pm Permalink
malcolmkyle (not verified)


During alcohol prohibition, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on education, etc. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally, the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?
It's possible that many of the early Prohibitionists did not actually intend to kill hundreds of thousands worldwide and put 1 in every 30 American adults under supervision of the correctional system while bringing shame upon what was once a shining beacon of liberty and prosperity. But predictively similar to our "Great Experiment" of the 1920s, this foolish and counter-productive 're-run' has once again spawned rampant off-the-scale criminality, corruption, a bust economy, mass unemployment, the world's highest incarceration rate, a civil war in Mexico, an un-winnable war in Afghanistan, and an even higher rate of drug-use (both legal & illegal) than in all other countries that have courageously refused to blindly follow us down this sadomoralistic, dystopian rat hole. 
Should we wait for complete and utter economic ruination before demanding a return to sanity and the restoration of our unalienable­ rights? 
Surely it's high time we all stood up and told our dysfunctional government that we're totally pooped at being abused, beaten and jailed in order that unconscionable Transnational Corporations - and their Media Enablers - can continue to dupe, addict and poison us for obscene profits.
According to the CATO Institute, ending prohibition would save an annual $41 billion of expenditure while generating an estimated $46 billion in tax revenues.
Thu, 04/12/2012 - 9:26am Permalink

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