by Phillip Smith
A bill that would have decreased the penalties for simple drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors died Thursday in the California Senate. The proposed measure, Senate Bill 1506, was defeated on a vote of 24-11.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and would have reduced the charges for possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Leno argued that the measure would save the state money and result in more people getting drug treatment so they could re-enter society.
"No data begins to suggest that putting felonies on these mostly young people and incarcerating them for longer periods of time in any way benefits their recovery from drug use, Leno told his colleagues before the vote.
But his Senate colleagues, including some Democrats, sided with law enforcement lobbyists, who opposed the bill.
"I don't understand how decriminalization will actually reduce crime in California," said Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville).
Actually, by nearly any measure–violent crimes, property crimes, murders–the number of serious criminal offenses in California has dropped by about half in the past 20 years.
"With bills like this I can see Amsterdam from the capitol front porch," said Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale), who voted against the measure.
No word yet on whether Leno will try again next year.