Prop. 36 Wins Big Despite Politicos

  Prop. 36 Wins Big Despite Politicos

Posted by FoM on November 08, 2000 at 09:03:55 PT
By Peter Hartlaub of The Examiner Staff 
Source: San Francisco Examiner 

The state's top politicians said no to Proposition 36 but California voters didn't listen, overwhelmingly passing the initiative that requires treatment instead of jail time for most first-time and second-time drug offenders. By supporting Prop. 36 with almost 61 percent of the vote during Tuesday's election, Californians adopted policies that have been popular in San Francisco for nearly a decade.Prop. 36 was criticized by most of the state's major politicians and law enforcers, but supported by San Francisco's sheriff, mayor and District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who ran campaigns for election in 1995 and 1999 on platforms that touted drug treatment over incarceration.
With nearly 92 percent of the votes counted in the state, 60.6 percent of Californians were in favor of the initiative, which will allocate $120 million in funds each year for drug treatment.The state's legislative analyst estimated that Prop. 36 will save taxpayers more than $100 million a year by diverting people into treatment instead of prisons, jails and courts.Yes on 36 campaign director Bob Zimmerman said the numbers show that Californians are ready for a new approach in the war on drugs."I think we knew early on that voters were fed up with all the money that's been wasted, all the lives that are wasted on the drug war," Zimmerman said.Opponents of the measure said on Tuesday night that they would appeal to the Legislature to "clean up" the measure, which they said lacks money for drug testing.But unlike Proposition 215 — the state's 1996 medical marijuana initiative that resulted in immediate legal challenges — Prop. 36 opponents were not immediately looking to thwart the measure in the courts."I think we have to look to the future now in a positive way," said Stephen Manley, a Santa Clara County drug-court judge who had spoken out against Prop. 36. "My view is that we have to look to a very positive effort to make the best we can out of a very difficult situation."Most DAs, Politicos Opposed:Proposition 36 was criticized by most district attorneys in the state and by politicians real and fictitious, including Gov. Davis, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and actor Martin Sheen, who plays U.S. President Josiah Bartlett on TV's "The West Wing."Some treatment-center representatives also opposed the measure, including the president of the Betty Ford Center.But in San Francisco, it's hard to find an opponent of the initiative.Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Public Defender Jeff Brown and Mayor Willie Brown were among its supporters.Hallinan, the only district attorney in the state to endorse Prop. 36, said Tuesday's vote represented "a tidal wave of change when it comes to society's view of the drug war.""Law enforcement needs to catch up to the voters on this issue," Hallinan said late Tuesday. "The criminal justice system really has not put treatment first."Diversion in drug courts first began under former San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith in the early 1990s.San Francisco Like Amsterdam:"San Francisco is sort of seen as the Amsterdam of North America," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of The Lindesmith Center. "It's always pushing things forward."The New York-based Lindesmith Center pushed Prop. 36 and five other drug-related initiatives in four other states. The drug-policy foundation's top donor, New York financier George Soros, also supported the medical marijuana proposition.No on 36 spokeswoman Jean Munoz said millionaires from The Lindesmith Center were able to outspend their opponents 10 to 1, giving the voters the false impression that the current system doesn't already allow for treatment.The top donor for the No on 36 campaign was Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, who gave about $100,000.Opponents are concerned that the initiative will undercut the power of prosecutors, judges, and police and probation officers."The voters were misled," Munoz said.But Nadelmann pointed out that even the opponents of Prop. 36 didn't do a lot of campaigning against it. He said Feinstein didn't officially announce her position on the issue until a few days before the election."Their heart wasn't in it," Nadelmann said.Under Prop. 36, nonviolent defendants would be treated instead of incarcerated after they are convicted of drug possession for the first or second time. People convicted of violent offenses or other major crimes in conjunction with drug possession could still be sent to prison.Affects Up To 24,000 People:The nonpartisan state analyst's report says that as many as 24,000 nonviolent drug-possession offenders would be diverted to drug treatment instead of being sent to state prison.The treatment costs about $4,000 per person in a typical year. A year of prison for one drug user costs about $20,000.Critics of the measure said that even if there is no legal challenge, there will be appeals to the Legislature to make sure the structure is in place to make Prop. 36 work.And both sides agreed that there is more work to be done.No on 36 spokeswoman Munoz said a system has to be put in place to guarantee that treatment programs are monitored and held accountable. And drug-court judge Manley said money for drug testing is "very important.""Now the battle is going to be over implementation," said Nadelmann with The Lindesmith Center. "This ($120 million) could do a lot of good or it could be frittered away."Note: Drug treatment favored over jail, but plan may need work.Jim Herron Zamora of The Examiner staff contributed to this report.Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)Author: Peter Hartlaub of The Examiner StaffCopyright: 2000 San Francisco ExaminerPublished: November 8, 2000Contact: letters examiner.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:TLC - DPF Campaign For New Drug Policy 2000: Drug Policy Reform Initiatives Backing Treatment for Drug Offenses Articles - Proposition 36 

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Comment #1 posted by jeffrey snyder on May 30, 2001 at 10:44:59 PT:
why arrest for pot?
people should not be arrested for pot to start with. they do not have a drug problem. why even waste the money to bring them to court? i do not understand.
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