In a last-minute flurry of executive action before the close of the current legislative session, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 649, which would have given prosecutors discretion in whether to charge simple possession of heroin, cocaine and similar drugs as either a felony or misdemeanor. In giving the proposed measure the axe, Brown stated that he felt the measure was unnecessary because California was about to revisit the entire criminal sentencing structure.
However, Brown’s excuse for vetoing the measure is disingenuous. Whether or not California engages in a much-needed overhaul of the sentencing structure, persons who are convicted of simple cocaine or heroin possession still face the stigma and disabilities that flow from a felony conviction. Brown’s decision to veto the measure appears to be in acquiescence to pressure from “law and order” groups such as the California District Attorneys Association and California Police Chiefs Association. The measure had the full support of the ACLU, CACJ and CPDA.