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Public Safety

Bill Would Reduce Penalty For Simple Drug Possession

Bill Would Reduce Penalty For Simple Drug Possession
A bill in the state senate would reduce the penalty for simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.

A pivotal vote could come next week for a state senate bill that would change the penalty for simple drug possession in California. The measure would reduce the punishment from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Under existing state law, possession of cocaine, heroin, a variety of other controlled substances is a felony. Violators can be sent to jail for up to three years, and, because of their felony conviction, can face lifetime barriers to employment and housing.

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The new bill would make simple drug possession a misdemeanor.

Critics say it's an attempt to decriminalize drugs.

The ACLU's Margaret Dooley-Samuli said a misdemeanor is not a lightweight penalty.

"A misdemeanor can be punished by up to one year behind bars, plus fines and probation," she said. "So, you know, this is about making the penalty more appropriate."

Supporters say 13 other states and the federal government classify simple drug possession as a misdemeanor.

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The California Association of District Attorneys is against the measure.