Conference Addresses Proposition 36 Implementation
Yesterday's conference in Sacramento on Prop. 36, which sends nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of prison, brought 650 participants and "about that many" opinions on how to implement the measure, the Sacramento Bee reports. Prop. 36, which takes effect July 1, was approved by 61% of the state's voters, a percentage that many conferees said indicated a shift in how people view addiction. Under Prop. 36, convicted drug offenders will be sentenced to probation and drug treatment rather than prison. However, conference participants debated several hurdles to the measure's implementation, including how probation departments will handle the influx of new cases, whether drug testing will be required and whether to offer varying degrees of treatment. Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) said, "We clearly are going to have a renewed emphasis on probation." However, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler cautioned that having probation officers become "too involved" in monitoring drug offenders "could eat up much of the money intended for treatment." In addition, Nadler questioned how much emphasis should be placed on testing. Prop. 36 did not include money for drug testing, but many health experts believe testing is "an essential part of keeping addicts clean." Conference participants also debated whether to differentiate "experiment[al]" users from "hard-core addicts." Peter Banys, president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, said that limited funds require more expensive treatment, such as residential programs, be saved for "the worst off." Conference participants also addressed how to ensure that counselors for drug addicts are properly trained and how to measure the effectiveness of Prop. 36.
While there was no consensus on the details of Prop. 36, most conference participants agreed that the California initiative will be "closely watched." Rep. Maxine Waters (D) said, "It is California where we can show we can make it work." State Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) added, "This is the most important thing happening in California today." The one-day conference was sponsored by the Campaign for New Drug Policies, which backed the initiative, and several other organizations involved with drug treatment (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 12/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.