California has slowly been fighting back against the War on Drugs.
In 2010 then–Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law that makes holding a small amount of marijuana (without a doctor's recommendation) a ticket-worthy offense.
Then, in 2014, Golden State voters approved Proposition 47, which reduces to misdemeanors certain felony crimes involving even harder drugs.
The idea is to save us all millions if not billions of tax dollars spent on putting addicts, other drug users and nonviolent offenders in overcrowded cells. Strangely, some of the same folks who hate “big government” spending have been fighting tooth-and-nail against Proposition 47, claiming it has led to an increase in crime, even though that spike, also seen in cities outside the state, started locally before 47 went into effect.
Drug War opponents seem to have momentum in California. A bill, SB 966, by L.A.-area state Sen. Holly Mitchell was recently approved by the Senate 22-14.
This after it failed in the Senate last month.
In a nutshell, the law would eliminate the additional three years a drug offender can receive for each prior narcotics conviction.
“This enhancement has become a tool in the relentless assault on the most vulnerable people in our communities,” the Drug Police Alliance said in a statement. “SB 966 would curtail the use of this sentencing enhancement that has disproportionately impacted people of color and those who are impoverished or suffering from a substance-use disorder or mental illness.”
The organization argues that giving these people freedom earlier won't change the drug game. Indeed, scholarship on the topic strongly suggests that “the prohibitionist approach to regulating illicit drugs as well as tougher drug-related prison sentences have not reduced drug users' criminal activity.”
“After several decades of the war on drugs, there is no evidence that these punitive laws have made our communities safer or reduced the availability of drugs,” the DPA stated. “In fact, what we see today is that drugs are now more pure, cheaper and readily available than ever before.”
Mitchell said the three-year enhancements for past drug crimes only added fuel to a system rigged against minorities. “People of color are often the targets of criminalization and incarceration,” she noted.
“Piling extra years onto jail sentences for repeat offenders of nonviolent crimes overcrowds our prisons, sucks money out of taxpayers’ pockets and makes punishing a greater priority than preventing crime,” she said. “It doesn’t work. Why continue to waste lives and money on a failed policy?”
The bill is headed to the Assembly for its consideration.