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Bay Area Lawmaker Seeks To End Mandatory Minimum Sentences For Nonviolent Drug Offenders

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Mandatory prison sentence requirements for nonviolent drug offenses would be repealed under a proposal introduced in the California legislature by a Bay Area lawmaker.

State Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the measure known as Senate Bill 73 last week. The state senator said SB73 would repeal mandatory minimums enshrined in California law in the 1980s during the height of the War on Drugs. Wiener's office said measures enacted in that era have been "widely acknowledged as a racist policy failure" which has led to mass incarceration disproportionately impacting communities of color.

"We are living with the consequences of bad, racist policies enacted in the 1970s and 80s, which disproportionately criminalize and harm Black and brown communities," Wiener said in a statement. "Our drug laws are a stain on California, and we must stop hurting communities and wasting valuable resources jailing people who have committed nonviolent drug offenses."

Under SB73, judges would be given discretion to sentence certain nonviolent drug offenders to probation and rehabilitative programs, if appropriate. Currently first-time offenders for a number of nonviolent drug charges or second-time offenders convicted of drug possession for personal use cannot be sentenced to probation, according to the senator.

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, who formerly held the same post in San Francisco, has backed the measure, saying that mandatory minimums are "cruel, ineffective, and have exacerbated recidivism and racial disparities in the criminal justice system."

The measure has several co-authors including Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).

No date has been set on when SB73 would be considered by the legislature.

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