California

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 2014, 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. In 2014, as our law allowing for non-prescription sales of syringes sunsets, we are defending and expanding that victory with new legislation.

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.  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 sentencing reform in California. In 2013 Governor Brown vetoed our bill to reduce the criminal penalty for drug possession in California from a felony to a misdemeanor. In 2014 DPA will support partner efforts to put this issue on the ballot, moving our drug policies toward a health-centered approach, cutting wasteful drug war spending, and reducing the life-long barriers that follow a drug conviction. In 2014, DPA will also sponsor legislation to eliminate racially based sentencing disparities between cocaine base and cocaine powder.

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 the state of California to build unprecedented support for drug policy reform. During the 2013 legislative cycle seventeen Latino organizations collectively signed on to DPA legislation that called for treating simple drug possession as a wobbler rather than an automatic felony. In 2014, DPA is partnering 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. To learn more about DPA’s Spanish language work, please see http://www.drugpolicy.org/es.

Brown's New Budget Prioritizes Jails & Prisons, Cuts Schools, Universities and Healthcare

Advocates Call for Permanent Cuts to Prisons Through Sentencing Reform

Poll Finds That California Voters Believe "Too Many People in Prisons" and Support for Lessening Penalties for Drug Possession

SACRAMENTO – In his latest proposal to the Legislature, reportedly already embraced by Legislative Democratic leadership and poised for passage by majority vote, Governor Jerry Brown proposes guaranteed funding to local governments for building jail capacity and hiring sheriffs deputies and probation officers to supervise low-level, nonviolent offenders at the county level.

Glenn Backes 916-202-2538 or Allen Hopper 415-621-2493

Bring Back Balance: Sentencing Reforms Save Money & Improve Realignment

June 26, 2011
ACLU of California, Drug Policy Alliance, and the Ella Baker Center

It's time to reform California's sentencing laws. Californians are fed up with misguided policies that have packed our prisons & jails, drained our state budget and led to one of the highest rates of recidivism in the country.

US Supreme Court Upholds Order to Reduce California Prison Over-crowding

Advocates Urge California to Focus on Resolving Crisis, Including Ending Prison as Response to Drug Use

9,000 in Prison for Drug Possession at Cost of $450 Million a Year

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Supreme Court ruled today in Brown, et al. v. Plata, that the unconstitutional conditions of California's prisons were caused primarily by overcrowding and ordered California to reduce its prison population from over 200% of design capacity to 137.5% of capacity within two years.

Theshia Naidoo 510-229-5214 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215

Marijuana Legalization in California

May 27, 2010
Jeffrey A. Miron

Should California, or the country, legalize marijuana? Miron says "Yes," and for a multitude of reasons.

Revised Budget Reaffirms Realignment, Leaves Out Sentencing Reform

Advocacy Organizations Point to Simple & Safe Reforms as Key to Realignment's Success

SACRAMENTO – In his revised 2011-12 state budget, Governor Brown today recommitted to his criminal justice realignment plan, but left out safe and simple sentencing reforms that would ensure that the plan is effective and affordable. The governor's plan keeps people convicted of minor felonies at the county level instead of in state prison. Advocates highlighted, however, that a key part of the solution lies in changing minor offenses from felonies to misdemeanors so that the punishment and its associated taxpayer cost fits the crime.

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli 213-291-4190 or Tony Newman 646-335-5384

New Poll Finds Strong Majority of CA Voters Believe Too Many People Imprisoned, Favor Reducing Drug Possession Penalty from a Felony to a Misdemeanor

Voters More Likely to Vote for Candidates Who Support Reducing Drug Possession Penalty

Press Teleconference at 11 A.M. Will Review Survey Findings, Discuss Plans to Achieve Reform

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Abel Haptegeorgis at 510.428.3939

Gov. Brown Signs Bill to Shift Incarceration for Low-Level Felonies to Counties

Advocates Criticize Failure to Address Excessive Sentencing or Fund Drug, Mental Health Treatment and Other Prevention Services

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at 213-291-4190

California Drug Penalty Poll Analysis

April 11, 2011
Lake Research Partners

A California statewide survey reveals an electorate strongly in favor of reducing from a felony to a misdemeanor the possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use. Support for this reform is both broad, with nearly three-quarters of voters backing the proposed change, and intense.

California Drug Penalty Poll Results

April 11, 2011
Lake Research Partners

A California statewide survey reveals an electorate strongly in favor of reducing from a felony to a misdemeanor the possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use. Support for this reform is both broad, with nearly three-quarters of voters backing the proposed change, and intense.

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