California spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on felony drug possession convictions. Currently, possessing certain drugs for personal use is an automatic felony – no matter the amount or the circumstances.
Needlessly locking people up for low-level drug possession exacerbates prison overcrowding and wastes hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Felonies are punishable by up to three years behind bars and result in a number of lifetime barriers – including to housing and employment – that work against the successful reentry and rehabilitation of people with drug problems. This overly harsh penalty for drug possession contributes to recidivism, overcrowds prisons and jails and wastes resources that could be invested in proven crime prevention programs, including drug treatment.
But California is on the verge of righting this wrong. Senator Mark Leno (D-san Francisco) has introduced a bill (SB 649) that would give prosecutors the option to charge a defendant with a misdemeanor rather than an automatic felony. SB 649 has already survived several hurdles and is now just one step away from the Governor’s desk!
If passed, SB 649 will provide counties with an additional tool to help alleviate overcrowding in our local jails, ease pressure on California’s court system and save millions of dollars needlessly spent on the incarceration of low-level offenders, better spent on rehabilitating drug users and addressing more serious crimes.

How does SB 649 affect YOU?

Your neighborhood: By encouraging low-level drug offenders to engage in treatment and giving them a better chance at employment and housing, SB 649 will decrease recidivism and drug-related crime in your community. • Communities of color: Despite similar levels of drug use across racial and ethnic lines, people of color are disproportionately arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for drug offenses. SB 649 will help reduce this disproportionate impact of felony sentences on minorities. • Youth: Because SB 649 allows prosecutors to charge on a case-by-case basis, youth convicted of simple drug possession are more likely to get a second chance at success and avoid a felony drug conviction. • Women: Women are far more likely to be incarcerated for a drug-related offense or other non-violent crime. SB 649 will help reduce the disproportionate impact of felony sentences on women. • Employers / Landlords: If a reduction is granted, prospective employers or landlords will see the original conviction but also that the conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor. This can indicate rehabilitation and increase the likelihood of employment and housing for these low-level offenders.

>>Act Now

End the drug war today and urge your legislator to support SB 649.