Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, July 13, 2006


Page 1


Governor Signs Law Amending Prop. 36, Lawsuit Filed


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday signed into law Senate Bill 1137, revising Proposition 36 – which provides for drug treatment rather than incarceration for certain drug offenses – passed by the voters in 2000.

Supporters of the voter-approved measure immediately filed suit challenging the new law, which they say is unconstitutional because it violates the intent of the initiative. The Drug Policy Alliance and California Society of Addiction Medicine are plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed in Alameda Superior Court.

The new law, authored by Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, allows judges to sentence drug offenders to short jail terms if they relapse or drop out of their drug treatment programs.

Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told the MetNews that SB 1137 “violates the will of the voters.”

He said that the people voted for treatment rather than incarceration and SB 1137, at its core, is about incarceration instead of treatment. “We predict a very short lifespan for this law,” he said.

Dr. Peter Banyus, a physician specializing in the treatment of substance abuse and former president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, said in a statement:

“SB 1137, quite simply, erases the defining feature of Prop. 36: its public health and medical model for the provision of drug treatment services.”

Prior to the passage of SB 1137 in the Senate, Republican Attorney General candidate Sen. Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno, told the MetNews that Proposition 36 has “serious problems” and that its “record is dismal regarding the number of people that participated and completed [their treatment] program.”

Poochigian said he preferred a drug court model which provides for certain sanctions such as short sentences when someone misses a step in the treatment process.

Abrahamson acknowledged that a UCLA study showed that one-third of Proposition 36 offenders never showed up for treatment, one-third showed up and did well, and one-third showed up, but relapsed back into drug use.

However, he argued that these statistics are no different than those for programs using the drug court model favored by Poochigian, Ducheny, and others.

The lead plaintiff in the suit is Cliff Gardner, a San Francisco attorney who is the official proponent and coauther of Proposition 36.

Apparently anticipating a lawsuit, the new law’s drafters included a provision which would put the bill’s provisions in a ballot proposal for a vote of the people if the law is struck down in court. The California Constitution requires that any law that amends an initiative be approved by voters unless the initiative itself provides otherwise.


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company