California Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

by Phillip Smith, October 01, 2010, 03:25am

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Thursday signed into law a bill that decriminalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. The bill reduces simple possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

Currently, small-time pot possession is "semi-decriminalized" in California. There is no possible jail sentence and a maximum $100 fine. But because possession is a misdemeanor, people caught with pot are "arrested," even if that means only they are served a notice to appear, and they must appear before a court.

That has happened to more than a half million Californians in the last decade, and more than 60,000 last year alone. Every one of them required a court appearance, complete with judge and prosecutor. That costs the cash-strapped state money it desperately needs.

Under the bill signed today, SB 1449, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), pot possession will be treated like a traffic ticket. The fine will remain at $100, and there will be no arrest record.

In a signing statement, Schwarzenegger said he opposed decriminalization for personal use—and threw in a gratuitous jab at Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative—but that the state couldn't afford the status quo.

"I am signing this measure because possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name," said Schwarzenegger. "The only difference is that because it is a misdemeanor, a criminal defendant is entitled to a jury trial and a defense attorney. In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket."

Read more:
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2010/oct/01/california_governor...

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Comment by Nikki on October 8, 2010 at 10:37am
Angie, I really hope Prop 19 passes in Calif because other states will follow. Illinois sounds harsh but in my mother's generation you could go to prison for years for minor possession in Texas. So many lives have been ruined due to the war on drugs.
Comment by Angie on October 8, 2010 at 4:41am
I'm happy that California has a governor that realizes that the cops have bigger fish to fry than just minor pot offenders. I live in Illinois though, and unfortunately over here, possession of cannabis is considered a DUI. The worst traffic ticket you can possibly get. And instead of just $100 dollars without jail time, your taken to jail, treated worse than a dog, and will have to pay all in all around appoximately $3,000 dollars in tickets, court fees, lawyers, alcohol and drug awareness classes and perhaps more depending on other peoples situations! This is just one of the many things that I can't stand about how the system sticks it to the little guy, and enforces there thinking and beliefs over on us.

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