Drug Decriminalization Could Begin in California July 1

Press Release June 25, 2006
Media Contact

Margaret Dooley at (858) 336-3685 or Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384

SACRAMENTO, June 23 – Beginning July 1, Californians convicted of using heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or marijuana may simply be sent home. The Drug Policy Alliance warned today that drug treatment providers in the state are running out of money and that failing to allocate funding will decriminalize drug use.

In 2000, California voters passed Prop. 36, the state’s treatment-instead-of-incarceration law, permanently changing state law so that all eligible nonviolent drug possession offenders must be given the option of treatment. Eligible offenders cannot be jailed unless they are given treatment first.

Daniel Abrahamson, Drug Policy Alliance’s Director of Legal Affairs, said, “Prop. 36 clearly prohibits the incarceration of most low-level nonviolent drug offenders. This doesn’t change if the state decides to zero out funding for treatment. We drafted Prop. 36 this way to force the state to commit sufficient treatment resources.”

Abrahamson continued, “If the state fails to invest in Prop. 36 treatment, at least California won’t have to waste money jailing nonviolent drug offenders. We have de facto decriminalization of drug use.”

With drug treatment funding set to run out on July 1 — and with it, the option to send people to drug treatment — the state is under the gun. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed $120 million for Prop. 36 — a figure widely agreed to be much too low — and legislators recently set a slightly higher figure.

But in Sacramento now, there are two threats to Prop. 36 funding: some legislators may refuse to vote for Prop. 36 money without certain changes to the citizen initiative, or the governor might strike out the money if he is not satisfied with policy changes approved by the legislature.

Margaret Dooley, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Prop. 36 Outreach Coordinator, said, “There is abundant evidence that Prop. 36 is working and saving hundreds of millions of dollars. The partisan wrangling over changing it threatens treatment for tens of thousands of people. We want Californians to continue to have treatment as an option, but our leaders in Sacramento are on a collision course with drug decriminalization.”

For more information, visit http://www.prop36.org/ and http://www.drugpolicy.org/

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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