SACRAMENTO — Saying the war on drugs has failed, state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has proposed allowing prosecutors to file misdemeanor rather than felony charges in cases of simple possession of heroin, cocaine and other hard drugs.
Leno was joined Wednesday by representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the NAACP in announcing the legislation. He predicted it would save as much as $200 million a year by keeping fewer offenders behind bars.
"If we want safer communities, our collective goal for low-level drug offenders should be helping to ensure that they get the rehabilitation they need to successfully reenter their communities," Leno said. "Instead, we sentence them to long terms, offer them no treatment while incarcerated and release them back into our communities with few job prospects.''
Last year, the state Senate rejected a Leno bill that would have made simple possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine a misdemeanor after law enforcement groups said it would have taken away a tool for controlling the worst offenders.