California Ballot Initiative Proposes Changes To Drug And Theft Penalties

Citizens for Safer Communities submit signatures for initiative altering Proposition 47, aiming to increase penalties and offer treatment options.

      A picture of an LAPD police car. Proposition 47 would make theft and fraud from a felony to a misdeamor upto to $950. (NICK PAGE/UNSPLASHED)

California ballot initiative could change drug and theft penalties.


Californians for Safer Communities reported filing more than 900,000 signatures on April 18 in support of an initiative that would make changes to Proposition 47, which California voters approved in 2014 by a vote of 59.6% to 40.4%. 


Mannequins of SWAT teams at the Weedmaps Museum of Weed in Los Angeles, CA. California has been known to have had relaxing certain laws from felonies to misdemeanors over the last several years. (BRET KAVANAUGH/UNSPLASHED) 


Proposition 47 reduced the classification of most nonviolent property and drug crimes—including theft and fraud for amounts up to $950—from a felony to a misdemeanor.


The proposed initiative, known as the California Drug and Theft Crime Penalties and Treatment-Mandated Felonies Initiative, would increase drug crime and theft penalties and create a new class of crime called treatment-mandated felony, which would give the offender the option to participate in drug and mental health treatment.


Currently, state law classifies theft of items with a value of less than $950 and the possession of illegal drugs as misdemeanors. The proposed increases in penalties for theft are below:


A chart of penalty for theft crime offenses. California’s take on crime has been controversial over the years in looser laws. (COURTESY/BALLOTPEDIA)


Proposition 47’s effect on the crime rate has been widely debated in the state. 


“Some people calculate, ‘Hey, you know, I don’t want to go over the $950, so let me steal $949 worth of property,’” said San Francisco Police Chief William Scott.


San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said Proposition 47 is a “virtual get-out-of-jail-free card.”


University of California professor Charis Kubrin said criminal justice reforms like Proposition 47 had become a scapegoat for changes in criminal activities. 


“In the case of Prop 47, almost from the start, strong claims have been made regarding the measure’s impact on crime rates throughout the state—in the absence of any data or analysis to back those claims up,” said Kubrin about Proposition 47. “Opponents routinely cite rising crime rates as ‘proof’ that Prop 47 is harming public safety, prompting repeated calls to repeal the measure. Yet crime rates going up (or down for that matter) tell us nothing about the source of those trends, and studies such as this one are necessary to determine any link between criminal justice reform and crime rates.”


The required number of signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot in California is 546,651—5% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election.


Eleven statewide measures have qualified for the California ballot for the 2024 elections. 


California voters approved Proposition 1, which makes changes to the state’s Mental Health Services Act, on March 5. Six citizen initiatives and four constitutional amendments have qualified for the Nov. 5 ballot.


Nationwide, 89 statewide ballot measures have been certified in 33 states this year. An average of 88 measures were certified at this point in even-numbered years between 2012 and 2022.



Produced in association with Ballotpedia

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Newsdesk Manager