Plan to Reduce Penalties for Drug Possession Headed to Ballot

Initiative would lower jail time, fines for some non-violent offenses

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    An initiative targeted at reducing penalties for less serious crimes such as drug possession and petty theft is heading to the November statewide ballot.

    Co-authored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, the initiative lowers some felony crimes to misdemeanors.

    The initiative has gained enough signatures to land it on the fall ballot.

    It also provides for the resentencing of offenders currently serving prison time for a qualifying crime.

    The Legislative Analyst’s office estimates that if it is passed by voters, the iniative will save several hundred million dollars in annual criminal justice costs.

    Backers say that money could be re-targeted to education and health programs.

    The plan comes just a few years after voters rolled back some provisions of the “three-strikes” law and amid a continuing crisis of prison overcrowding in the state.

    Prosecutors could still pursue felony charges if a suspect has been previously convicted of a serious crime such as rape or murder.