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A California state senator from San Francisco is seeking to give prosecutors the option to charge some drug crimes as a misdemeanor level offense. The proposal would not only reduce potential exposure to time behind bars for possession of drugs for personal use, but would also keep a felony off of a person's record, which can make it difficult for the person to later find a job.

Senator Mark Leno's proposal would not modify California's marijuana laws, as possession of a small amount of marijuana is already considered an infraction under state law. State law gives authorities the option to charge possession of methamphetamine for personal use as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. The new proposal seeks to expand that kind of discretion in cases involving allegations of possessing of small amounts of heroin, cocaine and other so-called "hard drugs."

Obviously, there is some opposition to modifying California's harsh drug possession laws. State Senator Jim Nielson believes that people who may possess small amounts of drugs may commit other crimes to later buy the drugs. He apparently wants to keep possession of small amounts of drugs as a felony level offense to punish suspects for speculative offenses that he believes may possibly happen at some later time.

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California lawmakers are considering a proposed bill that would make certain possessory drug offenses a misdemeanor instead of a felony level crime in the state. The bill was debated this week by the Senate Public Safety Committee, which voted 4-2 in favor of the measure. The bill proposes to reduce personal drug possession crimes involving heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine from felony offenses to misdemeanor offenses.

Four of the panel members voted to approve the bill, which would still need approval from the full California Senate and the State Assembly before it would be put before the governor for his signature.

The bill has the support of a District Attorney from San Francisco, who says that imposing long prison sentences for Californians convicted for personal drug possession offenses creates a "vicious cycle that does further public safety." However, the California District Attorneys Association does not share that view, as the association opposes the bill.

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