SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — The state Assembly has approved a bill that gives county prosecutors the option of charging lower-level, non-violent drug offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

The bill from Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco cleared the Assembly Wednesday on a 41-30 vote. Leno says his bill will reduce incarceration costs by allowing flexibility in how prosecutors and judges handle some drug cases.

Anyone involved in selling or manufacturing drugs would not be eligible for the lesser charges.

Supporters include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Public Defenders Association.

Republicans opposing the bill said lessening penalties would send the wrong message. Assemblyman Brian Jones of Santee said drug users need “tough love,” not coddling.

SB649 returns to the Senate for a final vote.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)



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