California Legislature Approves a Bill Addressing the Impact of Drug Convictions on California Residents

Los Angeles, CA –The California State Legislature has passed AB 2195, a first of its kind measure to prevent California residents from facing some of the worst collateral consequences of drug convictions, including federal immigration consequences, in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Pereida v. Wilkinson, 141 S.Ct. 754 (March 4, 2021). The bill creates an alternative plea option that can be offered at the discretion of the prosecutor as a substitute for specified drug related offenses. This bill holds individuals accountable – the alternate plea will carry the same criminal penalties as any drug offense without triggering the collateral consequences for both immigrants and citizens. AB 2195 was authored by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles). In response to the passage of AB 2195, Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer and the bill’s co-sponsoring organizations released the following statements: 

“For noncitizens, including lawful permanent residents, living in California, a drug conviction can have devastating consequences, and the real possibility of family separation. Under current law, there are limited options for a judge to avoid sentencing that avoids overly harsh and disruptive collateral consequences to the individual and their family. AB 2195 gives an individual facing a possible drug conviction the ability to plead to a public nuisance charge as a substitute for the same-level drug charge. This gives judges additional resources to sentence appropriately, thus protecting California residents, including noncitizens, and their families, from lifelong consequences,” Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer

“Drug convictions carry extremely draconian consequences that can last a lifetime and disproportionately harm communities of color that have been over-surveillanced as a result of the drug war. They limit people’s ability to access housing, employment and other critical services. And for our immigrant communities, the consequences are much harsher, often leading to permanent separation from their families and exclusion from the U.S., even for a minor offense. With the passage of AB 2195, the California Legislature is rightly disrupting the drug war’s harmful legacy and paves the way for Californians to not be subject to unduly harsh punishments and life-altering barriers as a result of a drug offense,” said Jeannette Zanipatin, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. 

“This bill is a smart criminal law reform tool that provides attorneys more options to address the crisis of addiction— confronting some of the worst excesses of the War Against Drugs and making all of our communities safer,” said Kathy Brady, Senior Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center

“AB 2195 (Jones-Sawyer) is a common sense measure that will provide much-needed relief for vulnerable communities. We must continue to eradicate the harms of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration with bills like this,” said Greg Fidell, Policy Director with Initiate Justice 

AB 2195 provides folks with a just alternative which allows them to no longer feel the burden of the harsh collateral consequences or double punishment for having a drug conviction,” said the Solis Policy Institute (SPI) Community Health Team Fellows

The bill now heads to Governor Newsom for a decision to sign or veto the bill.