On Thursday, California State senators rejected a bill that would have downgraded charges for simple possession of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Senate Bill 1506, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Fransisco, would have changed the penalty for simple possession of drugs under state law from a felony, which is punishable by up to three years behind bars, to a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year behind bars.
The measure garnered only 11 votes, 10 votes short in the 40-member Senate.
SB 1506 would have made the criminal justice system fairer for blacks and Latinos, who are arrested and sentenced disproportionately for low level drug offenses, according to the bill’s co-sponsors who include the ACLU of California, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the California NAACP.
“No data begins to suggest that putting felonies on these mostly young people and incarcerating them for longer periods of time in any way benefits their recovery from drug use,” Leno told the Sacramento Bee.
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights issued a statement saying the defeat of SB1506 flies in the face of a recent poll finding that 70% of Californians support such a law.
“California Senators had an unprecedented opportunity to create a much needed solution that would save California $200 million per year and make our communities safer. While many state leaders lacked to courage to support reform, Californians continue to watch schools close and vital services end,” read a statement from the Ella Baker Center sent to Colorlines.com.