Under current law, getting caught with small amounts of hard drugs like cocaine or heroin is an automatic felony. State Senator Mark Leno, the bill’s author, says a criminal record is the last thing people struggling with addiction need.
“The very three things that keep someone successful in his or her recovery, is access to housing, education and employment,” says Leno. “Those are the very three things that a felony conviction puts out of reach.”
Leno says the incarceration rate will also come down under his bill.
But opponents say most people will reject the treatment alternative if they’re given a choice.
“You’ll have a whole host of unreconstructed drug users, who refuse treatment, out in the streets,” says John Lovell with the California Police Chiefs Association.
The bill is passed in the Senate. It could go to the Assembly floor next week.