Blog Post

California's Top Newspapers Endorse Harm Reduction and Sentencing Reform Bills

Virginia Purcell

The LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle, two of California’s most prominent newspapers, came out in support of DPA sponsored harm reduction and sentencing reform bills that are currently in the California state legislature.

The LA Times editorialized in favor of safe injection site legislation and wrote:

 “A bill in Sacramento would allow eight selected counties, including Los Angeles, to try the idea out. Not only is the philosophy of safe injection centers consistent with California’s efforts to treat addiction as a disease not a crime, but a pilot project would gather invaluable data. The proposal by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton)comes up for a crucial vote in a state Senate committee hearing in early July.”

The editorial also highlights that the American Medical Association chose to support safe consumption sites earlier this month.These sites would help stop people from both overdosing and contracting illnesses such as HIV. The bill also would establish that the sites would "provide access or referrals to addiction treatment services, medical services, and social services."

The San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial about SB 180 (Sen. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles), which would reform sentencing enhancements for people who violate drug laws and have prior drug offense convictions. The San Francisco Chronicle took a strong stance, emphasizing that sentencing enhancements for drug offenses simply do not work.

 “Rather, it’s an acknowledgment of what public defenders have testified to in legislative committees, andwhat community organizations have found in their work: The people who are most vulnerable to the harshest sentences are those suffering from not just drug addiction but also conditions like homelessness and mental illness. In recent years, California voters have consistently signaled their preference for drug offenders to receive treatment options rather than harsh, expensive jail terms.”

Today, with a 4-2 vote the California Assembly Public Safety passed SB 180 and recognizing that this enhancement has been ineffective and detrimental to California’s most vulnerable communities. SB 180 now moves to the Assembly floor.

Establishing safe injection sites and reforming controlled substance sentencing enhancements are steps in the right direction to treating addiction as a public health issue instead of as a criminal one.

Virginia Purcell is an intern with the Drug Policy Alliance.

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