In November 2014, California voters approved Proposition 47, a law that changed certain low-level crimes from potential felonies to misdemeanors, prioritizing drug treatment over punishment. Prop 47 reclassified three drug possession offenses and reinvested state savings in direct services. In 2015, the first full year after Prop 47, felony drug arrests fell by over 92,000 while misdemeanor drug arrests increased by only 70,000, reports California’s Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Taken together, says the center, these shifts produced a 10 percent decline in total drug arrests.
In response to Prop 47, some law enforcement departments began redirecting drug enforcement resources to community policing or the enforcement of more serious, offenses. Critics claim the proposition limits police authority and constrains the effectiveness of drug control, a contention that has led some agencies to deemphasize the enforcement of Proposition 47-related offenses. The report says Prop 47 reduced inconsistencies in the classification of drug possession offenses as felonies or misdemeanors. From 2010 to 2014, arrests and citations for Prop 47 drug possession offenses increased in 72 percent of law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Between 2014 and 2015, 58 percent of agencies reported declines.