On Oct. 4, it was reported that a proposition that is scheduled to appear on California's Nov. 4 ballot will reduce six nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors if it passes. It was estimated that the proposition, known as Proposition 47 or the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, would save the state up to $200 million a year. This money could be funneled into programs that address mental health and substance abuse.
Proposition 47 would cover crimes that include personal use of narcotics and other drugs and not crimes that include sales or trafficking. The proposition would also reduce charges for theft of property valued at less than $950 from felonies to misdemeanors. However, the act would not cover individuals who were previously convicted of certain violent or sexual crimes.
Backers of Proposition 47 argue that the act could help the state fight low-level crimes by providing the funds for addiction treatment and mental health services, as there appears to be an association between mental illness and drug addiction. Not only could reducing the severity of these crimes cut to the root of the problem, but it could also reduce overcrowding in prisons, according to advocates. Detractors, however, argue that with no incentive to stay clean, many individuals may become repeat offenders as a result of lighter punishments. Additionally, the number of individuals who are sent to prison for possession is actually low, as many are ordered to enter diversion or other programs.
If Proposition 47 is passed, those who are charged with possession of a controlled substance may have the opportunity to seek drug rehabilitation in lieu of a prison sentence. Additionally, if there is evidence that the accused person suffered a mental illness, they may also potentially seek therapy for any underlying illnesses. An attorney may help those currently facing charges under California law.
Source: UT San Diego, "Should drug possession be less illegal?", Kristina Davis, October 07, 2014