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California Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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), marijuana 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."

"Gov. Schwarzenegger deserves credit for sparing the state's taxpayers the cost of prosecuting minor pot offenders," said California NORML director Dale Gieringer. "Californians increasingly recognize that the war on marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources."

The law goes into effect January 1. Even if Prop 19 passes in November, it leaves in place misdemeanor charges for smoking in public or in the presence of minors. Those misdemeanors would become infractions under the new law.

Sacramento, CA
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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A reply to your comment

The State is already burdened with the expense of enforcing the law of keeping it illegal and dealing with the violence related to the illegal trafficking. Making it legal would generate more than a billion dollars a year in state sales tax and completely eliminate the demand for illegal marijuana cartels. "I think it's a golden opportunity for California voters to strike a real blow against the (Mexican) drug cartels and drug gangs," said Joseph McNamara, who served as San Jose's police chief for about 15 years. The state Board of Equalization last year said a marijuana legalization measure proposed in the state legislature could have brought California up to $1.4 billion in tax revenue. Before you vote no, why don't you research the facts instead of following your intuition. It's patriotic to be an informed citizen, it's not so patriotic to be an opinionated citizen with no factual information to support your claims. Why not pay our teachers with money from the legalization of marijuana. A

Me too...

Prop 19 is a step too will just create more conflict, as opponents maneuver to repeal it in both State and Federal court, as well as hamstring it at the local levels. 

I think Schwarzenegger struck the right balance, with this one...this change represents a sensible evolution, in our policy. The dual-policy of decriminalization and medical use sends a responsible message about marijuana use.

Woah woah hold on there doublespeak...

"Why burden the State with the extra expense of enforcing a new law"???

WTF it's basically REPEALING laws that are wasteful.


Why waste resources destroying hundreds of thousands of peaceful peoples lives that have done nothing to harm you or anyone else because they posses a particular plant?


How does a law that essentially says "stop wasting time on these people" equate to MORE effort.  It would save billions of dollars and thousands of lives wouldn't be ruined.

Don't fall for the doublespeak.

Are you serious?

Any expenses will be far exceeded by the increased tax revenues made off of this herb. I'd say you have it 100% backwards. This will be a boon for the State's ailing coffers!

Is it that You just don't get it?

Legal pot will bring tourist back,take away a lot of waisted police time and could bring as much as 12 billion in tax revenue and in direct and indirect service businesses. Did you know that it is suspected that the liquor industry helped write the criminal laws during prohibition to stop the free flow of pot because it could not be taxed with the then out dated technology. Time for us all to look at the real reason pot is illegal? Is anyone even looking for that other than me?

I agree

I support decriminalization and I don't think prop 19 is in the best interest of the majority of users read more here

borden's picture

freecat is completely wrong

See for why freecat is so completely wrong about Prop 1.

prop 19

you dork, it Wont cost more at all, Cali. will Gain Money that it Ever So Desperatly needs!


no if it was made legal and regulated it would make an estimated 1,000,000,000 dollers in taxes for the state to us ass they please it will pay it self off in one year

Prop 19 and Swarzenegger's new law

I disagree with you about the statement, "cops will be stopping you over the smell of pot or entering your home for just the smell of it" I spoke to a Sheriff's Deputy just this week about this subject and some neighbors who are growing and I have to smell it from my yard.  He stated that they will answer a call/complaint but they can't really do anything, even if they are smoking it, unless they are selling or have intent to sell.  

If P19 passes, it would be

If P19 passes, it would be legal to sell only if you have a license to do so.

If P19 passes, it creates new crimes. If P19 passes, who is going to come in and inspect your grow area to give you the ok? How much will taxes be? If taxes are a lot, does it not stand to reason that there will be a lot of tax evasion? Where will California's money be then? And remember, tax evasion is a federal offense. Remember too, that P19 STILL does nothing to make it federally legal to consume marijuana. We would still be criminals in the eyes of our government. Get it out of the classification it's that is something worth voting for. It shouldn't be a schedule I drug. That would solve the problem across the board would it not? Would the efforts to do that, not be better spent?

We don't need yet another bad law. Please understand this. There is no reason not to wait for a good law.

I'm a cannabis patient, I'm not some sort of profiteer. I've read the proposition, it's not a good law. No on 19.

borden's picture

completely wrong

See for information on why Catrina is completely mistaken.

A vote against Prop 19 is a prohibitionist vote.

 YES on 19!You Californians

 YES on 19!

You Californians may not be aware of this, but the entire world is waiting for your vote!

we are all counting on you to roll that snowball towards world legalization.

If not for yourselves, do it for ideology...

vote Yes on 19 and change the world!!

Gilad, Israel

Prop 19 also allows the state

Prop 19 also allows the state to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana which is important for our state's economic recovery. So Prop 19 is still important.

Prop 19

  To think these incompetent idiots who couldn't manage their check books are looking to venues they once deemed vial and punishable with prison is beyond stupid! What gives you so much confidence they have been utilizing our tax dollars for the better and we just happen to need this to bail us out and all will be sunny, with fluffy smiley clouds? The simple fact is these goons in Sacramento cannot balance their check book, now they are acting the hypocrite in order to support their special interest and social programs. This will only increase the value in the "legal" market while the Black Market (the truly free market) will continue to thrive based upon buyers going to the less mandated and un regulated costs. Decriminalizing and keeping the government at bay is the best scenario! How about we as voters hold our elected accountable and how about we PAY ATTENTION after the vote is cast!!!!!!

We don't need the STATE to

We don't need the STATE to tax and regulate everything we do.  This pathetic need to be taxed and regulated is sickening. How hard is it to see what Prop 19 passing would mean to small growers and the tobacco companies that will put them out of business?  The economic recovery of this STATE depends on taking it back from corrupt Democrats.  And cutting government by a third.  For starters.

Can't say no to prop 19

The economic recovery of this state depends on us getting the hell out of debt. Prop 19 both cuts down on government expenditure (much like this recent bill does) and increases state revenue through taxes. Also, prop 19 will set a valuable precedent for the other 49 states, and maybe help people realize that alcohol is a much worse drug than marijuana.

Say no to prop 19

Don't tax medicine! What kind of place do we live in that thinks taxing medicine would be a good idea?  There are some many ways to save this state, go green, balanced budget, living within our means!

tax medicine?

Marijuana is to medicine as Californians are to fiscal reality - an oxymoron.  Prop 19 taxes cannabis which has no medicinal properties, Jerry Brown's "moonbeams" not withstanding.  Are cigarettes medicine?


is percocet a medicine? It metabolizes in your liver to be the same chemical as heroin. Now, cigarettes contain nicotine. Its a drug, all drugs are medicine as Our wonderful pharmaceutical companies will tell you. They figured out a way to release heroin to the masses, but we cant smoke a plant's flowers?? so yes Cigarettes are medicine, and so is Pot!


Oycodone metabolizes to oxymorphone.  Although, similar to heroin, and probably just as strong, it is, still, not diacetylmorphine. (heroin)

Dozens of peer reviewed studies prove you wrong

Including some that were funded by the federal government:

"In response to passage of California’s medical marijuana law, the White House had the Institute of Medicine (IOM) review the data on marijuana’s medical benefits and risks. The IOM concluded, “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.” While noting potential risks of smoking, the report added, “we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting.” The government’s refusal to acknowledge this finding caused co-author John A. Benson to tell the New York Times that the government “loves to ignore our report … they would rather it never happened.” Joy, JE, Watson, SJ, and Benson, JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. National Academy Press. 1999. p. 159. See also, Harris, G. FDA Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana. New York Times. Apr.
21, 2006"

taxes on something free is 0$

Prop 19 allows everyone to grow their own. Taxes on what you grow yourself will not exist. Also, no medical marijuana patients will have to pay more for their medicine, as this is explicitly stated in the proposition itself. Please realize that this Prop will make it easier for everyone to use cannabis as medicine, or as recreation, on their own terms.


This is a fallacy. You can brew your own beer too, make your own wine and distill your own spirits relatively easily. I'm sure the tax on these three forms of alcohol comes to more than $0. And FYI, I'm much more likely to succeed at doing one of those than I am at ever being able to keep a plant long enough to be able to harvest it. are so naive. are so naive.  Prop 19 enables your local authorities...your local City tax and regulate. 

I guarantee you, that there will be all sorts of harebrained schemes to raise the promised tax, including taxing you for what you grow in your backyard, or prohibiting it outright, in your town.  Oh yes.  And if you grow it, without paying their tax, woe unto could end up in way more trouble, than if you had simply grown a few plants, under the old system!

What third will you cut?

Yea, we should get our roads and sidewalks for free. Those guys checking for air pollution and sewage dumps should be doing it for free. And police and fire should be a pay-as-you-need service. Especially when the small growers use those grenades and tiger traps to keep people off their farms in the state parks that rangers should manage for free.

Your comment demonstrates why we need some kind of regulation for quality control. The stuff you've been smoking may be laced with paraquat, or bleach, or some other toxic substance. It's the simplest explanation for your comment.



"Yea, we should get our roads and sidewalks for free. Those guys checking for air pollution and sewage dumps should be doing it for free. And police and fire should be a pay-as-you-need service. "


If you think your roads, sewage, fire and police are the majority of Cal's expenditures, perhaps you should go educate yourself before posting again.

" Especially when the small growers use those grenades and tiger traps to keep people off their farms in the state parks"

Which would not be necessary if it were not for the drug war making marajuana illegal.  There is no need to set a grenade trap for a plant in your back yard.

"Your comment demonstrates why we need some kind of regulation for quality control. The stuff you've been smoking may be laced with paraquat, or bleach, or some other toxic substance. It's the simplest explanation for your comment."

Your comment illustrates very well how the many people are very uninformed on the realities of their state, the country and the world.  Go educate yourself.



That's what the medical

That's what the medical market is for bro...regulation and quality control. 

And they're doing a damn fine job of it, too...

And they're their generating sales tax, to help pay for your roads and sidewalks.

And employing people in legal grow operations, undermining the demand for the guerilla mexi weed you're complaining about...

Some taxes are benefitial

OK... so we'll keep it illegal then. Nice. 

Ya see... there is a point to getting taxes from these type of self destructive FREEDOMS. Liquor taxes go to help paying for Health Care and programs to get off substance abuse. Don't you like those services? Maybe you should move to Somalia where they won't tax you at all. Let us know how you like it there.

"Liquor taxes go to help

"Liquor taxes go to help paying for Health Care and programs to get off substance abuse. Don't you like those services? Maybe you should move to Somalia where they won't tax you at all. Let us know how you like it there."

I have no problem with those services, but I also do not believe they are most efficiently provided by the government.  So no, I do not think I should be taxed to provide those services.  Private organizations and the free market will deal with them just fine without any government interference.


Also, do not equate limited government with no government.  

Nothing involving human

Nothing involving human beings will ever be truly "efficient". So what's your point?

Not so fast.

YES, Decriminalization?.  A stimulus plan for the Mexican Drug cartels!  Proposition 19 is more relevant now than ever.  Arnold just gave the Zetas a hundred million dollar bonus.  Allowing increasing demand without allowing a legal supply chain is stupid and dangerous for California.  I agree people should not be caged for abusing their own body, but giving cartels millions in new revenue, by keeping cannabis gardening criminal is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID.  Proposition 19 allows responsible, regulated and legal California businesses and every individual to shut out the cartels by growing cannabis here in California.  Decriminalization does not! YES on 19!  YES for ending the cartels.  YES for making California safer.

don't forget REALITY!

Legalization in any form would have no measurable impact on supply OR demand.  While some people, like you I suppose, wouldn't consider smoking pot UNLESS it was legalized, most of us out here  in the real world realize that anybody who wants it can get it.  If that confuses ya, that means that legalization in any form would have no measurable impact on supply OR demand....period!

You appear to have an overly simplistic view of economics

The entire *point* of legalizing pot is that you then have a state-set price point, which makes it much harder for any cartel to make a profit. It also means you're not dealing with someone who may decide that it's easier to give you substandard cannabis cut with any number of possible compounds used to either disguise it for transport purposes or just to pad it out.

Anyone who wants it now can get it - but they have to conduct a transaction with a dealer. If they can instead get it for the same price but with a quality guarantee and a stable price from a reputable, legal source, why would they go to a dealer? Do you see people choosing to buy bootleg vodka if they can get the real thing at the same price on a regular basis? Or bootleg cigarettes? Nope, in both cases the bootlegs only thrive when the cartels selling them can afford to significantly undercut the legitimate sales outlets.

A State-set price point? How Soviet...

This is America...we don't do that sort of thing, here.

Seriously...where would you get a crazy idea, like that?


It would have a huge effect

It would have a huge effect on WHERE the supply came from.  It would no longer be necessary to have a criminal enterprise smuggling it into the country when it can be grown in your own backyard.


So the cartels will lose tons of $$.

Oh reeeeeaaaaaaly?

History books would prove you wrong. Maybe you should take up reading?

You call yourself George

You call yourself George Washington, but that great man would have burned down any government that would have interfered with a man growing and cultivating a plant or that would prevent a man from smoking, injecting, consuming, or sniffing whatever and whenever and wherever he wishes. Additionally, George was smart enough to realize that criminalizing something is a sure way of making it extremely profitable for a select few - i.g., elements within certain governments benefitting from the war on drugs as well as the Big Pharma, which are using their congressional puppets to now demonize the private use of herbal medicine in a bid to control the market and/or destroy any access the general public has to a natural source of healing rather than their nightmarish mountain of fake dope.

Damn well said.

Damn well said.

Cheers.  If only more people

Cheers.  If only more people were sane enough to think like you.  Props Sir.

prop 19 allows recreational

prop 19 allows recreational use with no backlash from the law unless in violation of another law. Only a dumb stoner would assume that decriminalization meant legalization for recreational use. Read prop 19 plz.

Incorrect.  Where do you

Incorrect.  Where do you think the "dumb stoners" get the marijuana from?    Non-medical marijuana is grown, distributed, and sold by criminal groups, in some cases very bad people indeed.

 Prop 19 would have the same effect as repealing prohibition of alcohol did on the gangsters of Chicago in the 20s.  It would take their monopoly and put it into the hands of legitimate business, who typically don't shoot each other quite as much. 


Love the "quite as much" in the last sentence ;)

We have to take action.

Not only is that not good enough but it's created an even worse situation than before!

Less punishment on marijuana may lead to an increase in use, and because sales of the stuff are still illegal that'll mean *more* money going to the Mexican drug cartels and a subsequent *increase* in their violence and the number of innocent people they kill.

Since we can't stop people smoking we MUST legalize the production and sale of marijuana to adults with after-tax prices set too low for the cartels to match. We *have* to eliminate the cartel's marijuana incomes and end the incentive and ability to continue murdering innocent people!


Did you not read the story? It said smoking in public AND smoking in front of minors will be a misdemeanor under prop 19. If prop 19 fails it's because idiots like you read the first two sentences of an article and decide you know everything the story has to tell. Supports prop 19, legalize, regulate, tax.

Bravo! *Applauds*

Bravo! *Applauds*

You miss the point of 'Tax

You miss the point of 'Tax Cannabis Act'. What drug is your excuse for such ineptness/laziness?

The Governor passed this with

The Governor passed this with a signing statement. It can be withdrawn with another one by him or any subsequent Governor. Would you not rather have this be a matter of law? Laws must be repealed by a majority vote.


I'm not a Californian, but if I was I would vote for Prop 19. No, I don't smoke. It's a matter of personal liberty.

Prop 19 is more than just decriminalizing..

Prop 19 puts marijuana in a regulated market like alcohol. Anyone 21 and over could legally buy (and grow) marijuana. There would be no $100 fine if caught with pot. I think maybe you should look into what Proposition 19 actually is before you call people who push it "dumb stoners".


 "Those misdemeanors would become infractions under the new law"

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