|Photo: Salem News|
|California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources” prosecuting petty pot offenses|
A bill downgrading the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction has been signed into law by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The law, SB 1449 by Senator Mark Leno, means small-time pot offenders will no longer have to appear in court, and will no longer have a criminal arrest record. It will also save California millions of dollars in court and prosecution expenses, according to Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML.
The bill treats petty cannabis possession like a traffic ticket, punishable by a simple $100 fine and no arrest record.
“Gov. Schwarzenegger deserves credit for sparing the state’s taxpayers the cost of prosecuting minor pot offenders,” Gieringer said. “Californians increasingly recognize that the war on marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources.”
The new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2011, will have an effect even if Californians vote to legalize marijuana by passing Proposition 19.
Prop 19 leaves misdemeanor possession penalties in place for public use and smoking in the presence of children; under SB 1449, these offenses are now simple infractions. Oops! There goes another argument from the few greedy, paranoid dispensary owners who are selfishly against Prop 19!
In his typically “political” signing statement, the Governator said he opposes decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana and opposes Prop 19, but “in this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources” prosecuting petty pot offenses.
Misdemeanor possession offenses have mounted to new highs in California in recent years, reaching 61,164 in 2009, according to California NORML.
California NORML originally called for making petty possession an infraction when the state passed its original landmark decriminalization law in 1975, but the Legislature made it a minor misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $100 fine.
This marks the first time in 35 years that penalties for non-medical use of marijuana have been reduced in California.
In the video below, California NORML Director Dale Gieringer talks about SB 1449 at NORMLCon 2010.