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BART Board Member Wants To Make Drug Use Inside Stations A Felony

CONCORD (KPIX) - A BART board member has a plan that could stop scenes of graphic drug use inside stations and elevators. She wants to threaten the drug-users with prison time.

It's scenes like the one caught on camera at the Concord BART station elevator -- drug users openly shooting up - that has BART director Debora Allen saying it's time to revisit California's drug laws.

"Make the use of a hyperdermic needle for illegal drug use in a transit system a felony," says Allen.

It would be punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

"This is really a public safety issue not only for the riders, but for the workers- for the work place safety issue for our employees," she says.

Allen pointed to a picture that aired Tuesday night on KPIX of a Concord BART station agent finding someone with a needle in his arm in the elevator.

"That could have been a terrible situation for her," she says.

What frustrates Allen and others is that under a 2014 voter-approved reform in the state's drug laws, possession of and even the open injection of what were once felony class drugs like heroin, or methamphetamine are now misdemeanor offenses.

"Basically, you get a ticket," says Allen. "These people are sometimes back in the station before they can get the paperwork done."

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's office often handles those who are charged.

"Typically the D.A. doesn't prosecute these cases- you might get some form of drug treatment - but because they are misdemeanors - you are not going to see anyone thrown in jail for a long period time," he says.

But he disagrees with Allen's call to bring back felony charges.

"I think it's moving this in the wrong direction," he says. "Drug offenses should be treated as a public health problem."

"I don't want to incarcerate these drug users - what I want them to have help," insists Allen. "But they are not going to get help sitting on the floor of the BART station with mental health professionals sitting next to them trying to convince them to get help."

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