The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different outcome. California has been doing the same thing with drug users for decades, while wasting billions of dollars and wrecking lives in the process. Not only have we flooded our courts, jails and prisons with felony offenses for low-level drug users, we have created barriers to getting their lives back on track.
Senate Bill 1506, introduced last week by State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, changes that. SB 1506 would reclassify drug possession for personal use from a felony to a misdemeanor, reducing the potential sentences for these offenses from a maximum of three years imprisonment to a maximum of one year in county jail.
This simple, yet bold bill is a sharp break from the policies that helped create California’s prison overcrowding crisis. Prosecuting personal possession of drugs as a felony subjects thousands of low-level offenders to lengthy sentences and lifetime consequences. This bill recognizes that this approach simply does not work. Federal law, the District of Columbia, and 13 other states all penalize personal possession of controlled substances as a misdemeanor. This change will align California with federal law and a growing number of other states.
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