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January 16, 2003
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Gov’s Budget Plan Guts Prop. 36

Contact: Roberta Green, Campaign for New Drug Policies
310 394-2952

  • Voter-Approved Drug Treatment Fund, $120 Million/yr., Vanishes
  • State Oversight of Local Programs Eliminated
  • Long-Term University Studies Would End

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 16 — Sponsors of voter-approved Proposition 36, which requires drug treatment instead of jail time for nonviolent drug offenders, say that Gov. Gray Davis’ budget proposal would gut key provisions of the law. However, they say the initiative simply cannot be amended in the fashion Davis has proposed, and they urged him to drop Prop. 36 programs from the proposed “realignment” of other state programs to local governments.

Bill Zimmerman, who managed the campaign for Prop. 36 and currently serves on the broad-based Statewide Advisory Group overseeing implementation, said, “We assume it was an honest mistake by the governor’s office to include Prop. 36 in the proposed realignment. But it would be misguided, irresponsible and clearly illegal for this part of the plan to proceed.”

“If the governor and the legislature do not pull Prop. 36 out of any proposed realignment,” Zimmerman said, “we will organize a coalition to fight it and we will sue to block implementation of any bill that tampers with our new law.”

The text of Prop. 36 specifies that it can only be amended by a 2/3 vote “to further the Act” and that any changes “shall be consistent with its purposes.” Zimmerman said the “realignment” proposal for Prop. 36 fails both tests.

“First of all, the governor’s plan would end the voter-approved, guaranteed treatment funding contained in Prop. 36,” Zimmerman said. “It would also eliminate state oversight, budgetary auditing and evaluation of local programs.”

Zimmerman continued, “With no fixed budget and no one minding the store, treatment quality would soon suffer. We would see fewer people getting quality treatment, and more drug offenders going to prison, at far greater cost to the state.”

“It would be like turning back the clock,” Zimmerman said. “Prop. 36 demanded treatment instead of incarceration. But if you cut back on treatment, you just get more incarceration, and higher costs to the taxpayers.”

Supported by 61% of voters in November 2000, Prop. 36 created a state Substance Abuse Treatment Trust Fund, which is slated to receive $120 million per year through the 2005-2006 fiscal year. Gov. Davis’ new budget plan does not reference the trust fund and neglects this required state appropriation, which legally must be in addition to pre-existing treatment funds. Prop. 36 funds would instead be drawn from among a mass of competing programs at the local level.

In addition, the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs would cease to have funding or responsibility to monitor local-level implementation of Prop. 36. The law’s sponsors see state oversight as critical to guaranteeing the adequacy of treatment services and good-faith implementation of the voter initiative.

Finally, long-term studies of Prop. 36, also funded through a share of the state trust fund, would apparently be terminated if Gov. Davis’ plan goes through. Currently, the University of California at Los Angeles has a state contract to evaluate Prop. 36 implementation. Those studies, required by the text of Prop. 36,
are intended to guide legislators in future funding decisions after the first five-and-a-half years’ worth of appropriations expire.

Zimmerman said, “Neither the voters nor legislators will have the information they need if we shut down the studies of Prop. 36.”


Though Prop. 36 has only been effective since July 1, 2001, studies have shown that the program is working. Counties have greatly expanded the availability of treatment programs to accommodate the influx of new clients, and state officials reported a near doubling in the number of state-licensed treatment programs. And far fewer people are entering prison each year for drug possession.

Supporters argue that there is a rationale for exempting Prop. 36 money and oversight from the governor’s broader “realignment” plan.

Zimmerman said, “Even though local government plays a big role in making Prop. 36 work, this law is unique in that it saves the state money directly. When we place a drug offender in treatment, that often means we save a prison bed, which can cost over $25,000 per year. The state has an interest in making sure that people
are getting quality treatment so they don’t come to prison unnecessarily. That means the state cannot shirk its role in implementing Prop. 36.”

See more press releases

Common Sense for Drug Policy
California Society of Addiction Medicine
California State Association of Counties

Read commentary from Oliver H., a Prop 36 graduate.

Get the Facts
Over a dozen Proposition 36 fact sheets are available for download. Topics include: the Effectiveness of Drug Treatment, Drug Courts/Deferred Entry, and the California Correctional System.
breakdowns of the 2000 initiative votes
For background on the Prop. 36 campaign and other votes nationwide for drug policy reform, see:

Contact Lists
County Lead Agencies
and Contacts
Parole Region Contact
Probation Contacts



Drug Policy Alliance · (916) 444-3751 · [email protected]