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A California state senator has proposed legislation that would allow misdemeanor charges to be filed in cases of simple possession of heroin and cocaine, instead of felony charges.

State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco was joined this week by representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of California and NAACP when he announced the bill, according to the Los Angeles Times. Leno said the bill could save up to $200 million annually, by reducing the number of prisoners.

“If we want safer communities, our collective goal for low-level drug offenders should be helping to ensure that they get the rehabilitation they need to successfully reenter their communities,” Leno said in a news release. “Instead, we sentence them to long terms, offer them no treatment while incarcerated and release them back into our communities with few job prospects.”

Leno previously introduced a bill that would have made simple possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine a misdemeanor. The state Senate rejected the bill last year. Law enforcement groups argued the measure would have taken away a tool in controlling the worst drug offenders, the article notes. Under the new bill, prosecutors could decide to charge simple possession as a misdemeanor or felony.

A spokesman for the California District Attorneys Association, Cory Salzillo, told the newspaper the organization has “concern about the state making a policy that says drugs are not as bad as they used to be.’’

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