In recent years, California has taken several steps to pivot away from harsh sentences for drug possession crimes and to focus instead on drug prevention efforts. The enactment of Proposition 47 in 2014 reclassified drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. However, the state of Oregon took an even more aggressive approach to criminal reform in November 2020, when voters approved a ballot measure to decriminalize the possession of controlled substances, including heroin, LSD, oxycodone, and methamphetamine. This landmark event has prompted some California lawmakers to consider taking similar measures in the upcoming year.
Understanding Current Drug Possession Laws in California
Proposition 47 amended California’s Health & Safety Code by reducing drug possession offenses from felony crimes to misdemeanor crimes. The punishments for possession offenses are much less severe, as those convicted of misdemeanor crimes may face up to one year in jail as opposed to several years for felony convictions. In addition, those who have already been convicted of a drug possession offense prior to the enactment of Proposition 47 may be eligible to petition for the redesignation of their crime as a misdemeanor.
How California May Try to Decriminalize Psychedelic Drugs
When Oregon voters passed two historic ballot measures in November to permit the supervised use of certain psychedelic substances in therapeutic settings and to decriminalize small amounts of controlled substances, other states took notice. California state senator Scott Weiner of San Francisco recently announced that he intends to introduce legislation in 2021 that would decriminalize psychedelics, including psilocybin, peyote, MDMA, and others. He stated, “these drugs have been shown to have medicinal value treating depression, PTSD and other conditions. We need to stop criminalizing drug use and addiction. Weiner hopes to eventually move towards the decriminalization of all drugs, but he recognizes the need for a gradual approach. If successful, this legislation would mark the first time that any state lawmakers would directly enact drug policy reform rather than leaving the decision up to voters.
What New Drug Possession Laws Could Mean for Los Angeles County
While the decriminalization of psychedelics and other so-called “hard drugs” is not yet a reality in California, there are signs that residents may soon see such drug policy reforms. As lawmakers increase their efforts to provide alternative solutions to those who violate drug possession laws, including treatment programs, substance abuse counseling, and other forms of ongoing support, those who find themselves facing drug possession charges still need help navigating the criminal justice system. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug possession offense in Los Angeles County, seek the assistance of a trusted criminal defense attorney who can help you explore your options for obtaining a favorable outcome.
Call the dedicated Los Angeles County criminal defense attorneys at Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 to schedule a free consultation.