Opinion: DA should have reached out to the community before changing drug policy


Daily Post Editor

Santa Clara County has taken a big step toward normalizing the use of dangerous drugs. District Attorney Jeff Rosen has decided to stop filing charges against most people arrested or cited for possessing small amounts of illegal drugs.

Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is legal now, so what kind of drugs are we talking about? I’m assuming meth, cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, Ecstasy, PCP and so on.

His excuse is that his office has too many cases, and this will ease up the work load for his attorneys. He also hopes to divert these drug users into treatment programs, and treat the drug problem as a “public-health issue.”

That’s working really well in San Francisco. There’s syringes all over Market Street, and addicts walk around like zombies, thanks to this approach of not arresting offenders and treating drug use as a public-health issue.

Why no public hearings?

I’m suspicious of how Rosen rolled out this new policy. With a major change like this, you’d think the DA would hold hearings to find out what the public thinks before the policy becomes final.

The problem a bureaucrat has working in the county government building is that you lose touch with the community at large, and you’re surrounded by people who act as an echo chamber. (That’s why I’m pleased to see officials like County Supervisor Joe Simitian hold sidewalk hours — it keeps him in touch with the people he’s supposed to serve.)

If Rosen had held hearings on this idea, he would have heard from drug counselors and recovering addicts who oppose normalizing dangerous drugs. And undoubtedly he would have heard from parents who don’t want the government sending a signal that dangerous drugs are OK now.

This policy seems to ignore the fact that opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths nationwide in 2016.

Maybe Rosen didn’t hold a public hearing because he feared having to come face to face with a parent who lost a child to an overdose?

How strongly are parents against drug normalization? An organized group of parents got Mountain View City Council to reverse course and scrap the idea of allowing marijuana stores just last month.

I know Rosen is going to say that he’s not condoning drug use. But if he really believed that, then why didn’t he let people comment on this idea before it became his official policy?

Get more opinions

I would encourage Rosen to pull back this policy and run this idea by parents, recovering addicts and drug counselors, among others. I realize he’s heard from the activists out there who want to normalize drug use, and they’ve applauded his decision. I would encourage him to solicit more opinions about this policy before making it final.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is price@padailypost.com.


  1. I’m surprised an experienced DA doesn’t understand that getting busted is often the experience that causes a person to get off drugs. Not all the time, of course. But for many people going to jail is the “hitting rock bottom” experience that leads them to try and stop using. Without the deterrent effect of law enforcement, small time users will become big time users who will eventually overdose. This change wasn’t well thought out.

  2. I appreciate the Post for reporting this major shift by the DA. I hadn’t heard about it until I saw it in the paper. I work in the human services field, and encounter people with drug problems every day, and nobody talked with us about this new policy. I agree that the community should have been involved in the decision-making process.

  3. Correct me if i’m wrong, but jeff rosen had to take an oath of office swearing that he would enforce the laws … so how is it that he gets to pick and choose which laws he will enforce? he was elected to hold criminals accountable … rosen wasn’t elected to write the laws, just enforce them. time for a new DA!

  4. Jeff Rosen has a long history of being an aggressive prosecutor. He has been so hostile to marijuana legalization it has been argued he has failed to respond to voter demands. If he has recognized that felony charges are a poor way help people in need it shows a familiarity with expert consensus opinion. That some blowhards have not bothered to do the same is a reflection of their intellectual integrity. Have a super-special day!

  5. @Palo Alto Chris 66, “it shows a familiarity with expert consensus opinion.” Sounds like a condescending elitist talking.

    Chris, there is no consensus on drug decriminalization or drug normalization by experts, though I doubt you’ve read the literature on this given your comment.

    The only thing liberalization will accomplish is a temporary reduction of the workload of police and prosecutors. Temporary, until things hit the fan.

    It should be noted that Rosen is talking about decriminalization of hard drugs like heroin, meth, LSD and cocaine. Eliminating prosecution and providing injection rooms simply enables casual users to get deeper into their life-ending addictions with no restraint, no consequences.

    And there are serious public health implications. Rosen wants to make Santa Clara County like Portugal, which decriminalized the possession and consumption of all illicit substances, including heroin, cocaine and opioids. While prosecutions dropped (as to be expected if you’re not enforcing laws anymore), HIV and hepatitis rates soared, as did overdose deaths and drug-related crimes that a prosecutor couldn’t ignore, like murders and robberies.

    *** No other country has followed Portugal’s lead because they’ve seen the devastation decriminalization has caused.***

    Yet Rosen is eager to adopt Portugal’s model so he can solve his internal office-management problems. Aren’t we lucky? And Rosen is so arrogant he doesn’t even want to know what our opinions are about his plan.

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