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CA Policy: CNOA's war on rehabilitation

My last blog featured a prominent and successful lobbyist, John Lovell, and described the influential power a lobbyist can wield by representing a collective of agencies with similar agendas.  The California Narcotics Officers Association (CNOA) is yet another of the clients John Lovell has in his collection.

CNOA was founded in 1964 and has approximately 7,000 members, including local, state, and federal peace officers, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel.  It has historically supported tough on crime laws that impose harsher sentences for drug crimes, and opposed legislation that treats drug use as a medical condition. 

For example, CNOA strongly opposed needle exchange programs including a 2003 bill called AB 136 and an earlier version AB 518.  Needle exchange programs are designed as a harm reduction measure to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses. CNOA also joined other corrections unions in the previously discussed defeat of Proposition 5 in 2008, which would have shortened parole for methamphetamine dealers and other drug felons from three years to six months. 

In a report to the legislature in 2010, CJCJ documented that harsher marijuana possession laws contribute significantly to California's prison overcrowding. For example, the report indicates, "The unprecedented shift in California law enforcement priorities towards targeting the demand side of the drug war is clearly demonstrated by the extraordinary increase in the rate of arrests for misdemeanor possession (small quantity, less than one ounce) of marijuana."  In addition, several drug policy organizations advocate for a medical approach to low level drug users, and an easing of marijuana restrictions. Yet CNOA continues to assert that marijuana is not medicinal under any circumstance, and vehemently opposes reform efforts to divert drug users from state incarceration and into drug treatment.

Here's a sample of legislation that CNOA is interested in this year, demonstrating their contribution to societal problems that drive prison overcrowding:

~ AB 604 (Skinner-D) Needle exchange programs.

This bill allows the Department of Public Health (DPH) to authorize other entities to operate clean needle and syringe exchange programs in targeted areas to stem the rapid spread of HIV and viral hepatitis.  These programs are already authorized by law to be conducted by DPH or another public entity.  CNOA opposed the bill.  The bill passed.

~ AB 828 (Swanson-D) Food stamps: eligibility: drug felonies.

This bill would eliminate the requirement that a person convicted of a drug-related felony must be engaging in or waiting for drug treatment to receive food stamps.  CNOA opposes the bill.  It is currently being held under submission by the senate appropriations committee.

~ AB 1017 (Ammiano-D, 2011) Marijuana cultivation: reduced penalty.

This bill would have amended the sentence for growing marijuana to allow for imprisonment in county jail instead of state prison.  CNOA opposed the bill.  Reconsideration was granted, and the bill was ordered inactive at the request of the author.

~ SB 420 (Hernandez-D, 2011) Synthetic cannabinoid compounds.

This bill would have made it a misdemeanor to sell, distribute, or possess for sale any synthetic cannabinoid compound or derivative.  It is currently a felony offense.  CNOA opposed the bill.  The bill was enrolled and presented to the Governor at 4:30 pm on September 6, 2011.

CNOA lobbies for legislation that flies in the face of research and continues to drive up California's incarceration rates.  Its lobbying efforts are given weight and influence in Sacramento through their alignment with powerful unions like CCPOA, and lobbyist John Lovell.  Drug policy in California should be focused on effective and fair tools to reduce drug-related crime and increase public safety.  The harsh incarceration-focused policies that CNOA promotes do not achieve that end.

Keywords: interest groups, Selena Teji, substance use

Posted in Blog, Political Landscape

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