California’s full Assembly recently approved Senate Bill 649, a measure to reform the state’s drug laws, which has already been approved by the Senate. The proposal now heads back to the Senate for approval of amendments, before going to the governor for final approval.
Under Senate Bill 649, judges and prosecutors will be given the option of charging drug possession cases as misdemeanors, rather than felonies, a move which could save millions in tax-payer money, and put a stop to some of the overcrowding that occurs on behalf of the drug war. In California there are roughly 10,000 drug possession charges each year, not including cannabis.
“We know we can reduce crime by offering low-level offenders rehabilitation and the opportunity to successfully reenter their communities, but we are currently doing the opposite,”states Senator Mark Leno, the prime sponsor of the bill, “We give nonviolent drug offenders long terms, offer them no treatment while they’re incarcerated, and then release them back into the community with few job prospects or options to receive an education. SB 649 gives local governments the flexibility to choose reduced penalties so that they can reinvest in proven alternatives that benefit minor offenders and reserve limited jail space for serious criminals.”
Governor Jerry Brown will now have final say over the bill’s passage.