Injunction Blocks Controversial Drug Law Changes During Lawsuit

Press Release September 13, 2006
Media Contact

Margaret Dooley at (858) 336-3685 or Daniel Abrahamson at (510) 229-5212

OAKLAND COURTHOUSE — Today Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith entered a preliminary injunction stopping Senate Bill 1137 from taking effect while the court considers its constitutionality. The bill, blocked by a temporary restraining order since July, would make controversial changes to Proposition 36, the treatment-instead-of-incarceration initiative passed by 61 percent of voters in 2000.

Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “In enjoining SB 1137, the court today fully affirmed our position that Prop. 36 is about treatment instead of incarceration, not treatment with incarceration.”

The Drug Policy Alliance and CSAM filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court in July arguing that SB 1137 compromises the intent of Prop. 36 and should therefore be struck down. The six-year-old initiative prohibits politicians from making any changes that do not “further the Act.”

At the center of the suit are provisions in SB 1137 that would allow Prop. 36 participants engaged in substance abuse treatment to be jailed. The Drug Policy Alliance and CSAM argue that this violates the intent of the initiative. The judge agreed, finding today that the bill’s “new ‘jail sanctions’ provisions are directly contrary to . . . the purposes of Proposition 36.”

Dr. Peter Banys, a physician specializing in substance abuse treatment and a former president of CSAM, explained, “The public recognized, well before politicians, that we will never jail our way out of addiction. When 61 percent of California voters approved Prop. 36 in 2000, they mandated a landmark shift from an incarceration and criminal justice model to a treatment and public health model. SB 1137 reverses that shift.”

In issuing the injunction today, the court sought to prevent undue harm. It found that, were SB 1137 to be implemented, “…;there is a probability of harm to the public, both in terms of expenditures that Proposition 36 apparently meant to prevent, and in terms of potential incarceration of persons that Proposition 36 apparently meant to avoid incarceration.”

The court further found that “there is a significant harm worked when the will of the voters appears to have been ignored by the Legislature in contravention of the Constitutional restrictions on amendment of legislation enacted pursuant to voter initiatives.”

Learn more about SB 1137, the Complaint, and other documents filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

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

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