A California lawmaker has proposed a new bill that would lessen criminal penalties for persons charged with certain types of drug crimes.
Sen. Mark Leno, Democrat-San Francisco has introduced a bill that would lessen the punishment for possession of any illicit drug. The bill SB 1506 if approved, would classify drug possession as a lesser crime.
The federal administration classifies drug possession as a misdemeanor. This is what Bill SB1506 will also do. It will classify possession as a misdemeanor, and not a felony.
According to Sen. Leno, passing the bill would have a tremendous impact on society. It would reduce costs in prosecuting these simple crimes, and incarcerating offenders. Most importantly, it will have a strong social impact. Often, the persons who are most likely to be arrested and charged with drug possession offenses are those who belong to minority communities, certain ethnicities and people from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
A drug crime conviction doesn't help these people any. It limits their employment prospects, and leads to a permanent mark on their record. This record can make it difficult for them to find appropriate housing, and may have other effects that can reduce the quality of their lives. Such convictions actually increase recidivism rates.
The bill however may not be approved easily. Already, several public safety organizations in California have expressed their opposition to the bill. They claim that it will impact public safety, because persons who are arrested for possession of drug crimes, will not be punished appropriately, and may not be placed in drug treatment programs.
California criminal defense attorneys are strongly in support of the bill. For one thing, a law like this will reduce recidivism rates sharply. California prisons already have an overpopulation crisis, and this bill would help tackle that issue too.