Physicians, Advocates Step Up Fight To Save Drug Treatment Law

Press Release June 17, 2006
Media Contact

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

SACRAMENTO, June 18 — Countering a threat to voter-approved Prop. 36 that supporters describe as “fundamental,” the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) are publishing a full-page ad in Monday’s Sacramento Bee to make their case against hostile legislation that could be voted on as soon as Tuesday.

The ad headline reads: “Proposition 36: It passed. It works. Don’t let lobbyists kill it,” calling attention to the fact that the popular and successful law is now under attack from pro-incarceration lobbyists in Sacramento.

The groups placed the ad urging Californians to contact their legislators and tell them to vote “no” on anti-Prop. 36 legislation expected to be dropped into a budget trailer bill (tentatively SB 1137) and put up for a vote this week. The trailer bill contents would be drawn from SB 803 (Ducheny), a bill CSAM and DPA have consistently opposed.

Margaret Dooley, DPA’s Prop. 36 Outreach Coordinator, said, “We see SB 803, or any trailer bill like it, as a fundamental challenge to Prop. 36. The people voted for this. To try to rewrite the initiative, especially in a secretive budget trailer, is highly offensive to the practice of democracy in California.”

The ad text outlines six specific objections to the bill, including claims that the bill is alternately too harsh and too lenient with people who are in Prop. 36 treatment. For instance, both CSAM and DPA have often criticized the idea of using jail time to punish treatment relapses, as SB 803 would allow. But the groups also object to a part of the bill that allows people to stay in Prop. 36 treatment after committing a non-drug crime, including fraud, theft or domestic violence.

Peter Banys, M.D., M.Sc., and a past president of CSAM, said, “SB 803 violates the intent of Prop. 36 by making a hash of the initiative’s public health treatment model. There is scant evidence of any treatment benefit from incarceration. We would be dismayed to see this bill enacted with so many regressive elements.”

DPA has vowed to sue to block implementation of any bill that violates the intents and purposes of Prop. 36.

The ad also notes that SB 803 adds to the costs of the Prop. 36 program, but the budget amount approved last week for Prop. 36 is insufficient to pay for treatment at current levels. “Treatment quality will suffer and success rates will go down,” the ad warns.

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

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