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California Prisoners Released Under Supreme Court Ruling Could Include Many Nonviolent Drug Offenders, Argues Pro-Marijuana Group

That U.S. Supreme Court-ordered release of 33,000 California prisoners? Not so bad, says the Drug Policy Forum of California, which argues state lockups have been overcrowded with people who have done nothing more than hold onto natural substances such as marijuana and cocaine.

" ... It is noteworthy that the state maintained 24,959 prisoners for inherently non-violent drug offenses, according to the most recent statistics from the Dept of Corrections," sates the Forum today.

It blames the kind of inhumane overcrowding cited by the court majority for its decision on "the drug laws, a modern innovation that did not exist prior to the 20th century."

The Forum states that about a third of those prisoners were only being held for simple possession. The rest had more serious convictions -- for sales, manufacture and distribution.

The Forum notes that drug convicts in prison have gone down from 28 percent in 1999 to 15 percent today, thanks in part to Prop. 36, which requires treatment instead of prison for minor drug offenses.

And San Francisco state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano wants cultivation of marijuana to be eligible for misdemeanor status. His bill, AB 1017, is under consideration in Sacramento.

Still, the New York Times estimates that the Supreme Court's ruling could put about 11,000 convicts on the streets of L.A. County.

The union the represents Los Angeles police argues that the court decision could unleash a "wave of crime" for L.A.

These convicts can't all be joint-possessing angels, can they?

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]


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