Loading...
Drugs

Misdemeanor Status For Small-Time Cocaine Possession Rejected

Comments (0)

By

Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge DKALO / FLICKR
California's prisons are so overcrowded that we're under a federal court order to cut 8,000 inmates by year's end.

A California lawmaker, Sen. Mark Leno, came up with one idea to ensure that our lockups aren't clogged up with small-time offenders: Let local prosecutors decide if suspects caught with small amounts of hard drugs like cocaine or heroin should be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a mandatory felony.

Over the weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown said no to that bill, SB 649:

In a veto message, Brown said that Leno's bill would overlap with another, SB 105, that might end up doing the same thing. The latter legislation will examine "the current sentencing structure," Brown said, adding that ...

... We will do so with the full participation of all necessary parties, including law enforcement, local government, courts and treatment providers. That will be the appropriate time to evaluate our existing drug laws.

Sounds promising, but backers of the misdemeanor sentencing bill, which passed the state legislature, were still disappointed.

The ACLU says Leno's bill would not have applied to cases of selling, manufacturing or possessing drugs and that it could have saved taxpayers $160 million a year in incarceration and court costs.

Kim Horiuchi, criminal justice and drug policy attorney for the ACLU of California:

By vetoing S.B. 649, Gov. Brown has thwarted the will of the voters and their elected representatives by rejecting a modest reform that would have helped end mass incarceration in this state.

click to enlarge NIGHTLIFE OF REVELRY / FLICKR
  • Nightlife of Revelry / Flickr

The law would have applied only to personal-use cases and would have made the small-time possession of the likes of cocaine and heroin similar to marijuana possession -- a possible misdemeanor.

Retired Redondo Beach lieutenant commander Diane Goldstein of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:

This bill would have reduced incarceration and increased the ability for prosecutors and judges to decide minor possession cases based on their individual merits rather than by a one-size-fits-all approach that runs counter to the idea of individualized justice, and that we know simply doesn't work.

The Drug Policy Alliance co-sponsored the bill. The group's California state director, Lynne Lyman, said this over the weekend:

The Governor let down the people of California, the majority of whom support going even farther than this bill would have gone. The vast majority of voters agree with the experts -- locking up drug users is stupid, unproductive, cruel and expensive.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • Comic-Con's "Celebrity" Autograph Area
    A sometimes overlooked (but still incredibly unique) aspect of San Diego Comic-Con are the celebs available to sign autographs, as well as the autograph seekers themselves. If you've ever wanted to meet the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld or the guy who played Michelangelo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, chances are, as you wander the Autograph Area, you'll be able to connect with someone you didn't even realize you were waiting your whole life to meet! All photos by Rob Inderrieden.
  • Real Madrid Soccer Practice at UCLA
    Fans came out to greet world champion soccer team Real Madrid as they practice at UCLA. This is the first time that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has practiced with the team this year. All photos by Jeff Cowan.
  • Here's What Happens When President Obama Comes to L.A.
    President Obama came to town again to rake in some funds and clog some traffic. The only view of his visit you probably saw were the brake lights of the car ahead of you in the traffic jam he caused, but here's what was really going on. All photos by Ted Soqui.