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. DPA sponsored landmark ballot initiatives that legalized medical marijuana (Prop. 215 in 1996), created the largest treatment-instead-of-incarceration program in the country (Prop. 36 in 2000), and sought to reduce criminal penalties for drug use while dramatically expanding access to drug treatment (Prop. 5 in 2008). DPA was also a primary supporter of Prop. 19 in 2010, which sought to legally regulate marijuana for adult use and helped mainstream the issue nationwide. And in 2012, we worked closely with allies in California to pass a historic ballot initiative to reform the state’s “three strikes” law.
In 2012, DPA’s California office, with critical support from allies, succeeded in getting 911 Good Samaritan legislation signed and enacted into law. This law provides limited immunity to individuals who seek medical attention to save the life of someone experiencing an overdose. In 2013, we will continue our work to reduce overdose deaths by seeking expanded access to naloxone, a generic, non-narcotic antidote to opiate overdose.
DPA has worked tirelessly to increase sterile syringe access in California to prevent HIV and hepatitis C transmission. In 2011, we won key victories that expanded syringe access to every county in the state. We are preparing now to defend and expand those victories in 2014 when the state’s law allowing for non-prescription sales of syringes will have to be renewed.
DPA is committed to protecting patient access to medical marijuana in California by playing an active role in a number of state and local coalitions and by voicing priorities to Sacramento and Washington, D.C. In light of the decisive electoral victories in Colorado and Washington in favor of legally regulating marijuana for adults, DPA is excited about bringing this policy change to California in 2016. It is time to end decades of failed marijuana prohibition and replace it with sensible regulations for adult marijuana consumption, sales and cultivation. DPA and our allies are in the planning stages for a legalization voter initiative for the 2016 election.
With the 2012 “three strikes” reform’s two-to-one victory at the ballot box – as well as numerous polls demonstrating that more than 70 percent of Californians support reducing penalties for all drug possession and that more than 85 percent believe nonviolent drug offenders should not be crowded into our bursting prisons and jails – DPA believes now is the time for real sentencing reform in California. In 2013, we will build on our 2012 legislative efforts to reduce the criminal penalty for drug possession in California from a felony to a misdemeanor. This reform would move our drug policies toward a health-centered approach, cut wasteful drug war spending, and reduce the life-long barriers that follow a drug conviction. Likewise, DPA will pursue other sentencing reforms to eliminate outrageous racial disparities that are endemic in drug sentencing for people of color.