For more than 15 years in California, the Drug Policy Alliance has sponsored and supported some of the nation’s most progressive drug policy reforms, including significant reforms in the arenas of marijuana access, harm reduction and criminal justice.

DPA’s team in California has worked tirelessly to increase sterile syringe access in California to prevent HIV and hepatitis C transmission; sponsored the landmark ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana; created the largest treatment-instead-of-incarceration program in the country; helped reduce criminal penalties for drug use while dramatically expanding access to drug treatment; expanded access to the lifesaving overdose reversal medication naloxone; and has sought to legally regulate marijuana for adult use in California while leading the nationwide effort to do so.

DPA‘s Harm Reduction Reforms in California

In 2011, DPA won key victories that expanded syringe access to every county in the state. In 2012, with support from allies, we succeeded in getting 911 Good Samaritan legislation signed and enacted into law, providing limited immunity to individuals seeking medical attention for someone experiencing an overdose. In 2014, we victoriously defended and expanded our law allowing for non-prescription sales of syringes with new legislation signed into law. We also achieved victory with a law allowing pharmacy sales of naloxone without a prescription to people who may witness or experience an opiate overdose. In 2015, DPA will focus on the successful implementation of these two laws statewide, along with advancing harm reduction strategies in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties.

DPA‘s Criminal Justice Reforms in California

In 2012, we worked closely with allies in California to pass a historic ballot initiative to reform the state’s “Three Strikes” law with a two-to-one victory at the ballot box.

While Governor Brown vetoed DPA’s bill to reduce the criminal penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor in 2013, in 2014 DPA and our allies achieved victory with Prop 47, which applied this reform both prospectively and retroactively,  along with other penalty reductions for low level crimes.. In 2014, DPA achieved victory on a ten-year effort  to eliminate racially-based sentencing disparities between cocaine base and cocaine powder possession for sale through the passage of the California Fair Sentencing Act. In 2015, DPA will seek to reform law enforcement practices related to civil asset forfeiture.

DPA‘s Marijuana Reforms in California

For the past two decades, DPA has been at the forefront of the fight to end marijuana prohibition, both in California and around the country.  DPA is working in coalition to draft and run a 2016 ballot initiative to regulate marijuana for adults in California. Unequal application of the law and other harms of marijuana prohibition have impacted millions of Californians. DPA looks forward to leading the way into a post-prohibition era of sensible regulations, and a redirection of vital law enforcement resources. DPA also continues to be committed to protecting patient access to medical marijuana in California, by working with legislators to develop a regulation system that will best serve patients and their communities.

Latinos and DPA in California

Since 2012 DPA has been working to engage Latinos in Southern California on drug policy reform issues. Our effort launched with the Caravan for Peace and Justice, a bi-national venture led by prominent Mexican poet Javier Sicilia. Since then, we have engaged more than four dozen prominent Latino organizations across California to build unprecedented support for drug policy reform. During the 2013 and 2014 legislative cycles nearly two dozen Latino organizations supported DPA legislation that called for reducing the penalty for  simple drug possession  and equalizing penalties for crack and powder cocaine.  DPA  also partnered with to shape Latino opinion on drug policy – illustrating its effects on Latino families in California by using coordinated online, on-the-ground, and social and mainstream media engagement. In 2015, DPA is spearheading an effort to prevent deportation for immigrants who commit low level drug law violations. To learn more about DPA’s Spanish language work, please see

One Year Later and the Experts Agree: California's Landmark Criminal Justice Reform Measure, Proposition 47 is a Success

Thousands of Californians Get Relief under Prop. 47; State Saves Millions in Prison and Jail Costsp

In First Year, Prop 47 Implementation Hampered by Lackluster State and Local Officials

SACRAMENTO, CA – A year after Californians overwhelmingly voted to end harsh sentencing laws and reform the criminal justice system, Proposition 47: The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act is being touted as a resounding success. With 60 percent of the vote, Californians declared that people should no longer be incarcerated for long periods of times for simple drug possession or petty property crimes.


Eunisses Hernandez (323) 820-8677
Lynne Lyman (213) 210-1023

Federal Ruling Protects Medical Marijuana Dispensaries That Follow State Law

In Precedent-Setting Case, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer Rules Justice Department in Violation of Federal Law and Lifts Injunction Against Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Judge Cites Recent Congressional Reforms, as Support for Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Continues to Grow in Congress

Yesterday, a federal judge lifted an injunction against one of California’s oldest medical marijuana dispensaries. The injunction can no longer be enforced in the wake of a congressional spending amendment passed by Congress last year—the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment—that precluded the Department of Justice from spending funds on prosecuting dispensaries in compliance with state law. Setting significant legal precedent, Senior Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S.


Tony Newman 646.335.5384
Bill Piper 202.669.6430

CA Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill to Allow Those who Completed Court Ordered Diversion Programs to Clean Up Records

Governor Vetoes Partner Bill that Allowed Courts Discretion to Order Diversion Without a Guilty Plea

Both Bills Intended to Prevent Deportations for Nonviolent, Minor Drug Law Violations

SACRAMENTO, CA –Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown acted on two life-changing companion bills, approving one, but vetoing the other. Brown signed A.B. 1352 which allows those who have completed court ordered drug diversion since 1997 to file with the court to convert their plea to a “not guilty.”  Before 1997, there was a pre-plea diversion option in California.  The relief applies only to those who have completed diversion, which has already resulted in clearing the arrest and conviction from their record.


Armando Gudiño (562) 413-9003

A Guide to Prop. 47 Reclassification in Los Angeles County

October 2, 2015

Proposition 47 is a law passed by voter initiative in California on November 4, 2014. Prop. 47 changed certain low-level crimes like drug possession and petty-theft offenses from felonies or wobblers (crimes that could be tried as felonies or misdemeanors) to misdemeanors. The provisions of Prop. 47 apply retroactively (for persons already convicted for these crimes) and going forward for all future criminal adjudications.

Los Angeles County Prop 47 Progress Report

October 2, 2015

Prop 47 is a law passed by voter initiative in California on November 4, 2014. Prop. 47 changed certain low-level crimes like drug possession and petty-theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. While Prop 47 received 60% of the vote statewide and passed in Los Angeles County with 65%, as of July 2015, there have been only 34,762 Prop 47 filings submitted to the Los Angeles Superior Court. This represents just 12% of the 300,000 potentially eligible cases in the County.

Drug Policy Alliance Applauds CVS/pharmacy for Being First Chain Pharmacy in California to Make Overdose Antidote Naloxone Available Without a Prescription

Drug Policy Alliance, Health Advocates Cheer CVS/pharmacy in Bringing Non-Prescription Naloxone to California Pharmacies

SAN FRANCISCO— The Drug Policy Alliance is applauding CVS/pharmacy for being the first chain pharmacy in California to stock and sell the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone without a prescription. More than 50 CVS/pharmacy stores in California will make the lifesaving drug available to friends and family members of people at risk of an opiate overdose.


Laura Thomas 415-283-6366

Ethan Nadelmann to Keynote at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition in Los Angeles on September 17th

Top Proponent of Drug Policy Brings Strong Insight to West Coast Business Event

Developing a responsible, safe and ethical marijuana industry will be the theme of Ethan Nadelmann’s keynote speech at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo taking place September 16-18, 2015 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA.  Described by Rolling Stone magazine as "the real drug czar," Mr. Nadelmann is the Founder & Executive Director of the Drug Policy and is known for his persuasiveness and passion for promoting alternatives to the war on drugs.


Annie Scully,, 201-310-9252
Tony Newman, 646-335-5384

Bipartisan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Dies on California Assembly Floor

Law Enforcement Lobby Deploys Heavy-Handed Scare Tactics

Senator Mitchell’s Bill, SB 443, Would Have Required Conviction Before Forfeiture

SACRAMENTO, CA — Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and David Hadley (R-Torrance) failed to pass the Assembly Floor today after extraordinary efforts by law enforcement to defeat it, including personal calls to legislators’ cell phones and other scare tactics. Despite bipartisan support and nearly unanimous votes at every previous juncture, SB 443 could not survive the Assembly Floor vote today.


Lynne Lyman (213) 210-1023
Glenn Backes (916) 202-2538

California Senate Approves Landmark Pretrial Diversion Bill (AB1351)

Bill Would Prevent Deportation and Loss of Public Benefits for Minor Drug Law Violations

Bill Now Heads to Governor Brown’s Desk

Sacramento – Today, the California Senate took a bold step toward addressing the often-devastating consequences of a minor drug law violation, such as deportation and the loss of federal housing and educational benefits.  The Senate vote was 21-15, with 4 members absent. The bill heads to Governor Brown’s desk for approval.


Armando Gudiño (562) 413-9003

Tuesday in California: Patients & Advocates Hand-Deliver Petition to Senator Feinstein on Medical Marijuana

Over 10,000 Signatories Tell Feinstein to Stop Opposing Medical Marijuana

Petition Follows Feinstein's Recent Vote Against Protecting Californian Residents from Federal Interference in Medical Marijuana Laws

California – A groups of California-based advocates will hand-deliver a petition to the San Francisco office of Sen. Feinstein (D-CA). Feinstein has been a leading opponent of marijuana reform, and recently spoke out against an amendment that would protect state medical marijuana programs from federal interference. The amendment passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 21-9, with Feinstein as the only Democrat to oppose the measure, with 8 Republicans voting in support.


Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Amanda Reiman 510-730-2811

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