California Could Cut All Drug Possession Penalties

By McCarton Ackerman 02/28/12

Possession of even "hard" drugs like heroin would be a misdemeanor, not a felony, under the proposed bill.

California's possession laws could become
considerably more lenient.
Photo via

California senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill that would turn possession of drugs including, cocaine, meth and heroin in the Golden State into a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. The bill would set a maximum penalty of one year in a county jail, compared to current laws, which allow for up to three years in a state prison. Leno claims his bill would help to relieve California’s overcrowded prisons and allow people to get treatment for addiction while keeping their job prospects. "There is no evidence to suggest that long prison sentences deter or limit people from abusing drugs," says Leno. “In fact, time behind bars and felony records often have horrible unintended consequences for people trying to overcome addiction because they are unlikely to receive drug treatment in prison and have few job prospects and educational opportunities when they leave.” According to Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, the bill could save $2 billion over the next 10 years through reducing overcrowding in prisons. Not everyone is a fan, of course. John Redman, executive director of Californians for Drug Free Youth, says the proposal, "sends a mixed message to our youth that taking drugs is not a big deal, that taking drugs is not a problem." Thirteen other states currently have similar laws on the books.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.