The California Senate has approved a controversial bill that would permit prosecutors to file misdemeanor charges in cases of simple possession of heroin, cocaine, and other hard drugs. Currently, possession of heroin, cocaine, and other controlled substances is considered a felony in the state of California.
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) cited 13 other states that allow simple hard drug possession to be charged as a misdemeanor as his model for introducing the measure. "In these 13 other states we can document that there is higher participation in drug treatment. As a result there is lower drug use ... and less violent and property crime in these 13 other states."
Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who supported the measure, pointed out that current drug law disproportionally affects minority youths in his community.
Not surprisingly, several senators and the California Police Chiefs Assn. opposed the bill. Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) said that Proposition 36 already allows those convicted of drug offenses to opt into treatment programs rather than serve jail time. According to The Los Angeles Times, Gaines suggested that instead of passing this bill, the answer is to build more jail and prison cells.