‘Unclear Wording’ in Proposition 36 Not ‘Important Enough’ to Challenge Law, Register Says
Anaheim city attorneys have appealed seven Proposition 36 cases, citing "unclear wording" in the law, but an Orange County Register editorial states that "splitting hairs" over language "doesn't seem important enough to potentially undermine" the law (Orange County Register, 7/27). Proposition 36 is the voter-approved ballot initiative that directs most first- and second-time drug offenders toward treatment rather than jail (California Healthline, 7/2). According to the editorial, the city attorney's office has sought "clarification" about "ambiguities" in the law, maintaining that offenders arrested with drug paraphernalia but not illegal drugs should not qualify under the law. The editorial points out, however, that "[c]ommon sense tells us" an individual with drug paraphernalia "not related to selling,such as pipes or syringes, is a drug user" and that Proposition 36 "tells us that person should be helped, not punished." In addition, the editorial calls the city attorneys' appeals "obtuse thinking that clearly violates the spirit" of Proposition 36. Although city attorneys may have a "duty to seek guidance by the appellate courts" on Proposition 36, the editorial states that they also have a "duty to uphold the intent of the law." The editorial adds that the appeals represent a "waste of taxpayers' dollars," an "ominous sign for supporters of sensible drug laws," and an effort to return to the "pre-initiative world." In addition, the editorial urges Orange County Superior Court judges to "recognize the frivolity and possible ulterior motives" of the appeals and "throw [them] out." The editorial concludes, "We'll concede the law's wording may be fuzzy. But its intended purpose is not. The appellate panel should err on the side of drug users looking for help instead of lawyers looking for a loophole" (Orange County Register, 7/27).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.