California Proposition 5, Non-Violent Drug Offenders (2008)

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Voting on Marijuana
Marijuana Leaf-smaller.gif
Ballot Measures
By state
By year
Not on ballot
California Proposition 5, or the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in California as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated.

Proposition 5, if it had been approved, would have:

  • Expanded drug treatment diversion programs for criminal offenders.
  • Modified parole supervision procedures.
  • Expanded prison and parole rehabilitation programs.
  • Allowed inmates to earn additional time off their prison sentences for participation and performance in rehabilitation programs.
  • Reduced certain penalties for marijuana possession.
  • Made miscellaneous changes to state laws governing the administration of rehabilitation and parole programs for offenders.

Election results

California Proposition 5
Defeatedd No7,566,78359.5%
Yes 5,155,206 40.5%

Turnout: 79.4% of registered

Results from the California Secretary of State (dead link)'

Text of measure


The ballot title was:

Nonviolent Drug Offenses. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation. Initiative Statute.


The official summary provided to describe Proposition 5 said:

  • Allocates $460,000,000 annually to improve and expand treatment programs for persons convicted of drug and other offenses.
  • Limits court authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes, break drug treatment rules or violate parole.
  • Substantially shortens parole for certain drug offenses; increases parole for serious and violent felonies.
  • Divides Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation authority between two Secretaries, one with six year fixed term and one serving at pleasure of Governor. Provides five year fixed terms for deputy secretaries.
  • Creates 19 member board to direct parole and rehabilitation policy.

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

  • Increased state costs over time potentially exceeding $1 billion annually primarily for expanding drug treatment and rehabilitation programs for offenders in state prisons, on parole, and in the community.
  • State savings over time potentially exceeding $1 billion annually due primarily to reduced prison and parole operating costs.
  • Net one-time state savings on capital outlay costs for prison facilities that eventually could exceed $2.5 billion.
  • Unknown net fiscal effect on county operations and capital outlay.



The official proponent of Proposition 5 was Daniel Abrahamson.

Argument in favor

Notable arguments that were made in favor of Prop 5 included:

  • Prop 5 would reduce pressure on overcrowded and expensive prisons.
  • Proposition 5 creates treatment options for young people with drug problems that do not exist under current law
  • Voter-approved Proposition 36 provided treatment, not jail, for nonviolent drug users.
  • One-third have completed treatment and became productive, tax-paying citizens.
  • Since 2000, Proposition 36 has graduated 84,000 people and saved almost $2 billion."

Campaign ad supporting Proposition 5


$7,601,079 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Proposition 5.[1]

Donors of $100,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
Bob Wilson $2,800,000
George Soros $1,400,000
Jacob Goldfield $1,100,000
John Sperling $1,000,000
Rockit Fund $500,000
Drug Policy Alliance Network $400,000



  • The People Against the Proposition 5 Deception was the official committee against the proposition.[2]
  • Actor Martin Sheen, who announced in late August that he would be a leading spokesperson in opposition to Proposition 5. In his announcement, he said he strongly supports treatment for drug offenders but that treatment "must be accompanied by tough penalties."[3][4]
  • The district attorneys of 32 California counties.
  • Former Governor Gray Davis
  • Former Governor Pete Wilson
  • John Walters, the National Drug Control Policy director, a position that is sometimes referred to as the "U.S. drug czar." Walters flew from D.C. to California to campaign against Proposition 5 in late October, saying it "will undermine court-based treatment programs they say have succeeded over the past decade."[5]

Five California governors (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis, Pete Wilson, Jerry Brown, and George Deukmejian) came together on October 29 to announce their joint opposition to the passage of Proposition 5.[6]

Arguments against

Notable arguments made against Proposition 5 included:

  • Proposition 5 has been called the "Drug Dealers’ Bill of Rights" because it shortens parole for methamphetamine dealers and other drug felons from 3 years to 6 months.
  • It would "require California to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on rehabilitation programs" during a time that the state's budget is in a deficit and its economy faltering.[7]
  • This measure may provide a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card to many of those accused of other crimes by claiming drugs made them do it, letting them effectively escape criminal prosecution."
  • Proposition 5 establishes two new bureaucracies with virtually no accountability, and which will cost hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.
  • According to some drug court judges in Yolo County, "This is an initiative written by an advocacy group. It is very long, encompassing 36 single-spaced pages in a relatively small font. It makes intricate and detailed amendments to a significant number of existing statutes and executive policies. We doubt that 5 percent of the voters of California will have read the entire text of this new law before they vote on it. Is this a good way to make state law?"[8]
  • Addicted defendants will be permitted five violations of probation or treatment failures based on drug use, and judges will be unable to meaningfully intervene until the sixth violation.


Campaign ad opposing Proposition 5

$2,886,965 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "no" vote on Proposition 5, to a group called People Against the Proposition 5 Deception.[1]

Donors of $100,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
California Correctional Peace Officers Association $1,000,000
Margaret Whitman $250,000
Jerrold Perenchio $250,000
California Republican Party $238,000
Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation $175,000
Save Our Society From Drugs $115,000
Los Angeles Police Protective League $101,800
California Beer & Beverage Distributors $100,000

Editorial opinion

2008 propositions
Flag of California.png
February 5
Proposition 91Proposition 92
Proposition 93Proposition 94
Proposition 95Proposition 96
Proposition 97
June 3
Proposition 98Proposition 99
November 4
Proposition 1AProposition 2
Proposition 3Proposition 4
Proposition 5Proposition 6
Proposition 7Proposition 8
Proposition 9Proposition 10
Proposition 11Proposition 12
Local measures

"Yes on 5"

Newspaper editorial boards supporting the approval of Proposition 5 included:

"No on 5"

Newspaper editorial boards opposed to the passage of Proposition 5 included:

Path to the ballot

Petition drive

See also: California signature requirements

As an initiated state statute, 433,971 signatures were required to qualify Proposition 5 for the ballot.

The petition drive conducted to qualify the measure for the fall ballot was conducted by Progressive Campaigns, Inc. at a cost of about $1.762 million.[13]

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

Lawsuit to remove

Opponents of Proposition 5, including thirty-two district attorneys and former California governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis petitioned the California Supreme Court to issue a preemptory writ of mandate to remove Proposition 5 from the ballot. The lawsuit alleged that Proposition 5 was an attempt to alter the constitution via statute, which is unconstitutional.[14][15]

The California Supreme Court declined to issue the preemptory writ. Generally, the constitutionality of an initiative in California is not reviewed by the courts until after a vote has passed and the initiative becomes law.[16]

External links

Suggest a link


Additional reading: