California voters support reduced drug possession penalties, survey says


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Backers of a measure that would reduce possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor released a survey Wednesday that indicated up to 70% of likely voters statewide support the change.

The survey, conducted by California Tulchin Research, found respondents were more concerned with the state budget deficit than crime, and that a majority say they believe that state jails and prisons are overcrowded and that a new solution is necessary.


The report said that 87% of Californians surveyed support allowing drug offenders to avoid jail time if they complete a drug treatment program.

The telephone survey of 800 Californians was conducted in the first week of this month and was paid for by a coalition of groups supporting SB 1506, including the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Drug Policy Alliance. The bill was introduced by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

‘Voters across the state, both Republicans and Democrats, recognize that long prison sentences are doing little to deter or limit drug abuse in our communities,’’ Leno said.

Those surveyed were asked if they would oppose or support the proposal to ‘reduce the punishment for possessing a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use from a felony to a misdemeanor. Forty-three percent said they have ‘strong support’’ for the change, and 27% said they ‘somewhat support’’ it.

The survey also found that 60% of respondents said they think that the state is headed in the wrong direction, while 27% said they think that California is headed in the right direction.


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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento