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 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 has endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, an initiative expected to be on the November 2016 ballot to tax, regulate, and control 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 implement a regulation system that will best serve patients and their communities.
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.
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 Presente.org 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 http://www.drugpolicy.org/es.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Top Experts in Policy, Science and Regulation Discuss the Public Health, Social Justice and Environmental Issues Related to Marijuana Legalization
In an effort to educate the public and discuss pressing issues related to the legalization of marijuana in California in 2016, the Drug Policy Alliance held three symposia, each focusing on a different aspect of marijuana regulation. Videos from those symposia are now available online to view for free.
Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Nationwide Gains Momentum with Sacramento Vote
SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, civil asset forfeiture reform legislation, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) won nearly unanimous approval in the California State Senate with a 38-1 vote.
Co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU and the Institute for Justice, SB 443 will require law enforcement agencies in the State of California to adhere to state laws regarding civil asset forfeiture, rather than transferring cases to federal prosecutors and courts where property rights and evidentiary standards are much lower.