Drug Policy Reformers Critical of Reisig’s Stance on Prop 47

By Robert J. Hansen

The California State Director for Drug Policy Alliance (DIA), Jeannette Zanipatin, criticized Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig’s claims regarding Prop. 47 and punishment for drug possession yesterday.

At last week’s debate, in front of over one hundred voters, District Attorney Reisig claimed that Prop. 47 is responsible for the increase in substance abuse because “there’s no consequence” for drug possession.

“What it (Prop. 47) did was decriminalize the possession of hard drugs—heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, ecstasy, whatever, from felonies to misdemeanors,” Reisig said.

Reisig said when Prop. 47 changed drug possession from felony to a misdemeanor California experienced a rapid drop-off in people wanting to participate in treatment.

“The reason is there’s no consequence,” Reisig said. “It’s a misdemeanor, it’s a ticket. It’s no different than walking down the street with an open beer.”

Prop. 47 reduced the maximum incarceration exposure to 364 days and is still a misdemeanor, which carries severe consequences including incarceration and years of collateral consequences, according to Zanipatin.

“The criminal legal system’s takeover of behavioral health has created the false belief that the only way people access substance use disorder treatment is through arrest and prosecution,” Zanipatin said in an email. “Instead, we should treat drug use and possession as public health issues best addressed through the public health and healthcare systems.”

She said that a reason the DA may be calling it a ticket is the local policies around cite and release where people arrested for drug possession are given a citation with a court date or possibly booked into jail and released shortly thereafter with a court date.

“From our view, this is better than having people sit in jail pretrial.  We are hearing that in some counties, individuals are in jail waiting for placement into a treatment facility that can take upwards of 6 months sitting in a jail cell,” Zanipatin said. “We need more community-based investments with proper social support to create the conditions for successful treatment and recovery.”

There were 4013 drug offenses from 2016 through 2020, the Yolo County District Attorney’s office said, and only 274 were offered diversion according to the Commons data portal.

A bill that would provide treatment to those who are suffering from substance abuse faces and are facing drug charges is moving through the legislature.

AB 1928, authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, passed the Public Safety Committee on Wednesday which was lauded by the Yolo DA’s Office.

“McCarty’s drug treatment bill passes out of the Public Safety Committee,” the Yolo DA’s Office said in a tweet.

San Joaquin, Santa Clara, and Yolo Counties would be authorized to develop, manage, staff, and offer a secured residential treatment pilot program, known as Hope California, for individuals suffering from substance use disorders (SUDs) who have been convicted of qualifying drug-motivated felony crimes, according to the bill.

Last October, similar legislation that would have allowed Yolo County to develop a secured treatment facility for individuals who suffer from substance abuse and are involved in the criminal justice system was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The bill, AB 1542, was authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty in partnership with District Attorney Jeff Reisig and Yolo County Supervisor Gary Sandy.

Those eligible for the treatment program would have included people who committed drug motivated felonies that but those who commit misdemeanors, simple drug possession, sex offenses, and strike offenses would not be eligible.

The governor vetoed it because of concerns of forced treatment.

“I am returning Assembly Bill 1542 without my signature.

AB 1542 would authorize the County of Yolo to offer a pilot program that would allow individuals struggling with substance use disorders, who have been convicted of qualifying drug-motivated crimes, to be placed in a Secured Residential Treatment Program,” Newsom said.

“I understand the importance of developing programs that can divert individuals away from the criminal justice system, but coerced treatment for substance use disorder is not the answer. While this pilot would give a person the choice between incarceration and treatment, I am concerned that this is a false choice that effectively leads to forced treatment.”

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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  1. Keith Olson

    The California State Director for Drug Policy Alliance (DIA), Jeannette Zanipatin, criticized Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig’s claims regarding Prop. 47 and punishment for drug possession yesterday.

    In order to get a prospective of what the Drug Policy Alliance is all about this is from their website:

    As the Drug Policy Alliance moves forward in the next phase of our work, we are prioritizing:

    decriminalizing drugs and building health-based alternatives;
    uprooting the drug war from civil systems (e.g. employment, housing, immigration);
    disempowering police in drug enforcement and response;
    reducing punishments for people in the drug trade;
    reinvesting drug war resources into the communities most harmed, and
    eliminating the poison drug supply through responsible legal regulation of all drugs.



    1. Rick Entrikin

      Excellent work, Keith!  This explains the alliance among the anti-arrest and anti-prosecution faction to use Cynthia Rodriguez, a former public defender with no criminal, prosecutorial experience, in their attempt to oust our outstanding, Yolo County District Attorney, Jeff Reisig.


      1. Keith Olson

        Rick, exactly.  With a lot of the organizations that are cited here on the Vanguard once you look at their mission statements and/or priorities it becomes obvious what their goal is.

      2. Robert JHansen

        For the record, Rodriguez does have prosecutorial experience. Prosecuting correctional officers with the Department of Corrections. Another reason for you to dislike her I’m sure but experienced nonetheless.

        1. PhillipColeman

          “Prosecuting correctional officers with the Department of Corrections.”

          The California Department of Corrections does not have the authority to criminally prosecute anybody.


          What is probably trying to be conveyed here is Rodriquez exercised administrative authority to discipline correctional officers, and in that capacity may have requested criminal prosecution from either state or federal prosecutors.





    2. Richard_McCann

      We already know that trying to use punitive enforcement on drug use is a losing battle. We have failed for over 50 years. Why do we keep trying the same failed approach over and over? I may not agree fully with DPA’s approach, but it’s focus on changing the conditions that create demand for drugs in many communities is a much better approach. Authoritarian rule, which is what it would take to truly suppress drug use through punitive actions, is an unacceptable solution if we believe in the many values of democracy.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Just want to clarify, in response to another commenter’s question/suggestion to clarify such issues up-front:

    Is this a “news article”, or an “opinion article”?

    1. Robert JHansen

      DA Reisig’s statements, his criticism from DPA and the legislation regarding drug diversion and treatment are facts being reported, not the Vanguard’s or the writer’s (mine) opinion.

      1. Ron Oertel

        What you (or the Vanguard) choose to report is based upon bias (opinion) in the first place. To a degree that I have not seen in very many other media sources. Certainly not something like The Davis Enterprise, for example.

        Though I have seen this type of “fact-based” reporting increasingly-spreading to mainstream media, as well. Mixed-in with outright opinion articles. (Usually, the same topics over-and-over.)

        For example, The Chronicle is fully on-board with David’s growth/development articles, but not so much regarding the school board and Boudin recall. Which causes me to ask, “Will the real progressive please stand up”. (Wasn’t there a game show like that, back in the 50s?)

        The very first sentence in your article is a “factually-reported” opinion from someone else which supports the Vanguard’s views:

        The California State Director for Drug Policy Alliance (DIA), Jeannette Zanipatin, criticized Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig’s claims regarding Prop. 47 and punishment for drug possession yesterday.

        1. Ron Oertel

          In other words, it seems to me that The Chronicle supports the YIMBYs, but is not as supportive of social justice issues (or open drug use and crime on city streets and at businesses).

          I’d suggest that YIMBYs (and the media which supports them) are actually business-friendly conservatives, in line with The Chronicle. And as such, so is the Vanguard (regarding that issue).

        2. Robert JHansen

          And the article I wrote about Reisig and prosecutor-initiated resentencing or the town hall on fentanyl article? Did you read those?

          But yes there is unavoidable bias with anything reported on, anything Nobody can cover a topic and not form an opinion. If that’s an issue with you I don’t know what to tell you other than at least we’re not doing what MSNBC, CNN or FOX does.

        3. Ron Oertel

          I don’t recall those articles, but I think you wrote a reasonably-balanced article regarding the DA debate itself.

          Note that it didn’t generate much response, because there wasn’t much to “disagree” with. It was one of the few times that I grudgingly-appreciated the Vanguard.

          And to my surprise, the challenger came off better than I had expected. Would still be concerned about supporting her, though.

          In my opinion, neither conservatives nor liberals care much about other people’s drug usage (in regard to themselves), until it becomes a problem for other people (one way or another).

  3. Richard_McCann

    The opponents of Prop 47 have only themselves to blame for this situation. The unwillingness of prosecutors and law enforcement to negotiate productively over changing a legal system that had created so much collateral damage in underprivileged communities led to introducing the initiative. Then prosecutors and law enforcement overplayed their hand, betting that it would lose at ballot rather than try to head it off by further negotiations over legislation. They lost and now the law created by proposition is much more difficult to amend under the state constitution than if it had been adopted through legislative statute. This was a foolish political strategy that backfired. Continuing to try to make frontal assaults won’t yield the reforms they desire (and maybe they want it that way so they can raise political dollars by fooling voters into chasing windmills.)

  4. Rick Entrikin

    I would like to thank the author for helping me make my point that candidate Rodriguez has:

    “… no criminal, prosecutorial experience….”

    He did so by describing Rodriguez’s experience as:

    Prosecuting correctional officers with the Department of Corrections.

    In fact, Rodriguez was a long-time public defender in Solano County, with no involvement as a prosecutor in Yolo County.  (And, yes, I realize she lives in Winters.)

    As for the author’s pathetic attempt to discredit my comments and read my mind, I suggest that he learns a bit of self-control before exposing his biases and making such unfounded claims as:

    Another reason for you to dislike her I’m sure but experienced nonetheless.

    My view that Jeff Reisig, our current District Attorney, is better qualified and suited for the job is based upon a number of factors, but NOT on whether I “like or dislike” either individual.  In fact, I do not know either of them personally and am happy to keep it that way.

    1. Alan Miller

      In fact, I do not know either of them personally and am happy to keep it that way.

      Even more important let’s hope we don’t meet either one of them professionally 😉

    2. David Greenwald

      “My view that Jeff Reisig, our current District Attorney, is better qualified and suited for the job is based upon a number of factors, but NOT on whether I “like or dislike” either individual. ”

      He has more experience for certain. But most of what a DA does is administrative rather than prosecutorial. It’s also more of a policy position. As such, the individual voters can decide whether the policies of the current administration align with their own or whether they prefer another approach.

    3. Robert JHansen

      There was no attempt to discredit, just inform.  As far as me exposing my bias, I do not know how assuming what you would think of a candidate reveals my opinion.  I in fact live in a different county so the outcome of the election has very little, if any, impact on me. As always, thanks for reading.

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