Drug Policy Alliance Releases ‘Heroes and Zeroes’ Report

Press Release November 9, 2005
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or James May at (916) 202-1636

Sacramento- The Drug Policy Alliance released a report today entitled “Heroes and Zeroes, holding California officeholders accountable for specific positive and negative changes in the fields of drug policy and criminal justice reform.

“California stands head and shoulders above the federal government in terms of drug policy reform,” said the author of the report Nikos Leverenz, associate director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s California Capital Office. “But there’s still a long road ahead at every level before drug abuse and addiction are primarily considered matters of public health and not criminal justice.”

Specifically, the report evaluates stances on issues in several fields. These include defending Proposition 215 medical marijuana rights and general drug sentencing reform, policies that advocate Proposition 36 treatment over incarceration, preservation of family cohesion and individual rights in wake of a drug charge and policies that promote more realistic models of drug policy beyond mere abstention. .

The report is based on several criteria. Among them, the consistent voting record in the previous legislative year either for or against legislation that positively or negatively acts as an agent of change of current drug policy in California.

Other factors were also considered, including significant single acts of positive or negative change. For example, a lawmaker who shows an act of courage for a piece of legislation will be considered a “hero” despite their overall voting record. Conversely, a legislator who significantly works on legislation that damages positive change received a “zero” designation despite a generally solid voting record for drug policy reform.

Based on this criteria, Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger’s enigmatic record on drug reform policy is examined and the report gives the governor neither the “hero” or the “zero” designation. While the report lauds the governor for policies and positions that are light years beyond his immediate predecessors, it also calls into question his vetoes of important drug policy and criminal justice legislation.

The list of legislative heroes include consistent drug reform advocates such as Assembly Members Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) and Patty Berg (D-Eureka). Other legislators cited in the report who have shown courage and wisdom include Assemblymembers Mervyn Dymally (D-Los Angeles) and Keith Richman (R-Northridge).

State senators making the heroes list include Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) and Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles).

Unfortunately, not all legislators displayed courage and wise policy decisions during the past legislative session. Some even went so far as to advocate damaging, turn-back-the-clock legislation that made them eligible to join this motley crew.

These legislators include state Assemblymembers Greg Aghazarian (R- Stockton) and Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto).

Legislators Senator George Runner and Assemblymember Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) are not just united in marriage, but also in bad policy as the report calls the husband/ wife legislative team “the ‘penalty pair extraordinaire’ of Sacramento.”

Though state Senator Denise Ducheney (D-San Diego) has a very solid voting record for reform, her introduction of a bill that was written by prosecutors to reduce the number of people eligible for drug treatment and add two to thirty day penalties for minor violations of probation for missed appointments . The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that the prosectors bills would cost taxpayers $30 million in new incarcerations costs.

Assemblymember Jay LaSuer (R-La Mesa) is given a dubious special distinction in the report for “berating of the wife of a terminally-ill inmate who testified in favor of a compassionate release bill (AB 1946).”

Please note: the original report has been amended to include additional distinguished legislators on the “heroes” list. More information is available at http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/111205heroesamend.cfm . For the original report, see http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/CAHeroesZeroes1105.pdf .

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

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