Skip to main content

California Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #652)

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.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


RPM (not verified)

Things have gotten so bad in california that it is turning into the Wiemar Republic.  Things were so bad in Gernany between WWI and WWII that the leglization of drugs helped the government manipulate the public and disquise the disaster happening around them. So, history repeating itself, so  who will be the Hitler style individual to bring the state out the mess?

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 2:56pm Permalink
Weiner (not verified)

In reply to by RPM (not verified)

A: It is Weimar Republic !

B: Check your facts ! You are full of it.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:09pm Permalink
takedaily (not verified)

Without the tax and regulate proposition the question of where one would get an oz of weed has not been answered. Currently one cannot grow or possess cannabis for distribution unless they are protected by the medical cannabis laws So again now only the dealers go to jail and it's still a catch 22..

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 2:56pm Permalink
Anonymousxxx (not verified)

It still is a criminal offense for possession of MJ - a misdemeanor!  If it would have been an infraction and not put on your police records it would have been a better step.  YES on PROP 19.  One problem though, once Prop 19 passes, watch for the leg. to enact per se DUI laws so that any level of MJ or metabolics will be a dui - just like ARIZONA......

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:00pm Permalink
RPM (not verified)

The state of California is so bad off it is turning to the Wiemar Republic strategy to get out of the mess.  Simply put, the Wiemar Republic legalized drugs to put the public in a fog so they could be manipulated better. So, instead of fixing the problem, legalize the drugs to make things better.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:03pm Permalink
Chris Edens (not verified)

In reply to by RPM (not verified)

Ignorance my friend.

And you seem to have taken a big 'ol puff of it this morning.

Even at the surface you can see this is not about "numbing the public" and more about the waste of money and effort spend on attacking a plant that if used with some personal responsibly, causes harm to no one.  Next step is tax it. 

So,  instead of having less poorly paid police, you have more well paid police and those police are not wasting their time arresting a guy for smoking a joint and going after real violent criminals.  Oh and not to mention the little side effect of removing almost all the criminal element and profit from it.

You never know, you might have to call 911 some day and that might even benefit you.  You're welcome.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 6:41pm Permalink

There are a lot of reasons to dislike California (I'm an ex-pat myself), but this isn't one of them. If our Founding Fathers saw the drug war today, they would be rolling in their graves. Making plants illegal. It doesn't get much more ridiculous than that. If you get intoxicated on anything and cause problems, there are already laws to address that. Anyone who claims government is too big ought to have no problem with the dismantling of this stupid system that is the "War on Drugs". Talk about tax feeders.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:04pm Permalink
J. Brown (not verified)

Before the state was collecting $100, but paying for judges, clerks and prosecutors.   Now they still collect the same $100 for doing next to nothing.  60,000 * $100 = $6,000,000 a year.   Not a lot, but it didn't cost anything to get it.    I suspect there will be a lot more of these citations as the cops were probably letting people off more than 1/2 the time because they didn't want to do the paperwork.    Eventually they will wise up, legalize and tax it.    

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:04pm Permalink

There are a lot of reasons to dislike California (I'm an ex-pat myself), but this isn't one of them. If our Founding Fathers saw the drug war today, they would be rolling in their graves. Making plants illegal. It doesn't get much more ridiculous than that. If you get intoxicated on anything and cause problems, there are already laws to address that. Anyone who claims government is too big ought to have no problem with the dismantling of this stupid system that is the "War on Drugs". Talk about tax feeders.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:06pm Permalink
Demetrius (not verified)

Pot delineates the smart from the dumb. If you smoke pot regularly you can identify yourself as a weak person in addition to being stupid. Someone that needs to alter their state of mind by inhaling smoke in any form has issues.

I believe a person should be content with life without having to alter their state of mind with drugs.

Pot heads, please know we can tell you from the general population, even when you are not high.

Low achievement, personal grooming issues, slower speech, we see you.

You are generally not highly employed either. How many nurses or physicians smoke dope?

I am satisfied with Arnold's new law. A person has a right to choke on smoke in their own home, they can also drink themselves to death. Not my business. You have a right to be dumb.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:06pm Permalink
KevStr (not verified)

In reply to by Demetrius (not verified)

Demetrius . . . What a stupid comment. You apparently are way out of touch with your spiritual soul and may have some personal issues of your own you should address before you rant and rave about others "having to alter their state of mind". To demean others for the way they look or their employment status only makes you sound arrogant and dumb. There are millions of users out there that have meaningful employment that you never see, that clean your teeth, that care for your kids, that sell you a car, and yes that deliver your pizza. Wake up . . . The cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years not only for spiritual purposes but also as a medicine in America before it was made illegal. Half of Americans like yourself seem totally brainwashed by the propaganda you've been fed your whole life. Maybe you should try it once prop 19 passes so you can see past your own ignorance.


YES to prop 19 . . . Peace!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:59pm Permalink
kdance (not verified)

In reply to by Demetrius (not verified)

i hope you have never consumed any medicine, or any alcohol, ever. otherwise, great work with the broad stereotypes. i, for one, don't bury my head in a hole, and i do know many professionals who enjoy cannabis recreationally. and it can't harm you *that much* when pro athletes - including gold-medal olympians! - are discovered to enjoy the plant on their own time. on a positive note, i'm glad you respect the fact that we can all have different beliefs and opinions. just remember that your viewpoint is fast becoming the minority viewpoint in this country.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:10pm Permalink
Chris Edens (not verified)

In reply to by Demetrius (not verified)

If being sober turns me into a hateful, spiteful ignoramus like yourself.. Then count me out!

I bet you would be surprised who smokes and how you have no idea.   I've passed a joint around with lawyer's, doctor's and master degree holder's(myself being one of them).  They work their butt's off all day, obey the laws and pay their taxes but instead of throwing down a beer or cocktail after work would rather enjoy a few puffs of Marijuana. 

I would take you to task harder, but at least you seem to be reasonable in that you will let others make the decision for themselves.




Fri, 10/01/2010 - 6:53pm Permalink
Terminatorscre… (not verified)

This is going to come back and bite Californians in the butt. This is not a good thing. California has just sunk to a new low. Didn't think it was possible. The most drugged State in the Union. It will not solve the money problem. Don't you people see it? The more money you give government the more they spend. Give them a billion and they will spend 5. Any money you think the government will get by this law or by passing prop 19 will be used up by the next State government on some useless project or for welfare or for paying illegal aliens to stay in the State. It's just like Iran getting money for oil but their gas prices are still high. They receive no benefit in their country to having oil. Same in California. Those want this law passed are those who want to smoke pot all day. See how that works out with a whole State full of drug addicts. Nothing good will come from this.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:08pm Permalink
none of your (not verified)

this is a BIG MISTAKE. and you wonder why the rest of the U.S. wants california to drop off into the sea????

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:12pm Permalink
kdance (not verified)

In reply to by none of your (not verified)

let's continue to clog up our court system, and our law enforcement (who could be, oh, fighting violent crime instead of chasing a plant), and waste billions of dollars trying to control what people do with their own bodies, with a plant that grows naturally on this earth. let's also continue to hound terminally ill patients who find solace in cannabis (*medically proven solace*) to ease their pain. let's also allow the plant's current regulation to maintain a culture of fear, not just in our country for *millions of people* - for possessing much less plant matter than a bowl of salad - but also in central and south america, where cartels gobble up billions in *untaxed* profit while killing anyone in their way. we should also ignore the FACT that this plant is much safer on the human body than other legalized drugs; let's instead continue the daily genocide caused by alcohol and tobacco consumption. that's what you want... right?

sarcasm aside: i don't want california to drop off into the sea. remember: you are in the minority with your thoughts on this plant's legal status. what planet did you come from?

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:18pm Permalink
Cat Cassie (not verified)

In reply to by none of your (not verified)

Who wants California to drop off into the sea?  Maybe jealous people. I mean loads of sunshine and warm temps all year.  I live in cold snowy Colorado. In January I start thinking how good the sun feels on your face. And now you people have even more freedom than the rest of us plus gorgeous weather. Yes I'm jealous.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:54pm Permalink
Congrats (not verified)

Wish other states would follow this example! Good job! The "war on drugs" has been a total waste of taxpayer dollars and a slap in the face for democracy.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:16pm Permalink
SarahTX2 (not verified)

The damage that has been done to families across the nation because of the utterly ridiculous penalties for marijuana is something that can't be undone.  But thank God for Arnold Schwarzenegger who's taking this huge step to stop the future damage.  I love this guy.  I'm moving to California, not just because of this, but I also love what Arnold Schwarzenegger did as far as going to China and the Far East to get help for California.  This guy does not fear the future.  I can hardly believe he's a Republican.  But I love him.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:16pm Permalink
George (not verified)

Hi @Thomas-in-Newport,

Let me be the first to say thank you for offering to depart CA and leave this rotting, cess pool of a state to those of us who enjoy our freedoms. Based on your username I'm assuming you're from Newport Beach; if not, you can change 'depart CA' to 'never come to CA'.


Regardless, I'm very grateful to be a native southern Californian. As part of my work life, I've lived in England, Japan, Australia, and most recently China. Although I've done my fair share of traveling within the US, I've been lucky enough to work in an industry that allows me to travel and live throughout the world. I can honestly say that each time after I arrive back home to CA, I am that much more thankful that I live in a State where I can exercise my personal freedoms more than anywhere else in the world.


I'm not going to speculate where you're coming from with your implied 'pot is turning this state into a land of druggies, while other activities such as drinking and gambling are perfectly a-ok' attitude. However, I'd hope you agree that once we start pushing our own moral viewpoints - be it religious/racist/traditional/insane viewpoints or not - we start chipping away at the very core of who we are as Americans.


Lastly, whether you like it or not, California has several things many other states do not: massive innovation (tech), extremely good climate (San Diego, Santa Barbara, Bay Area, etc), and an extremely well regarded education system (UC system, Stanford, etc.) While we do have extremely high tax rates, and a unquestionably amount of illegal immigration, at the end of the day I'm still glad to be from here and able to continue living here. I am one of those 'job creators' talked about in the media, and I can safely say that my job creation abilities will always adapt to what is necessary to keep myself and said jobs here in CA.


If you want to leave CA - or not visit/stay/work here - please, by all means don't. But at the same time, please don't push your beliefs on me and I'll promise to keep mine to myself.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:20pm Permalink
Anonymousxxx (not verified)

In reply to by George (not verified)

I personally take the good with the bad.  I come from back east and will never go back.  We have gambling run amok in this state but marijuana is illegal?  Alcohol kills hundreds of thousands of people a year and marijuana is illegal?  Prescription drug abuse is on the rise and kills thousand of people?  and marijuana is a problem? 

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:31pm Permalink
Mahakala (not verified)

Kali once again shows that it is the state of fruits and nuts.  I suppose they also want free health care.  Of course it isn't free, just being paid for by the productive people so the deadbeats can smoke their pot and demand more freebies.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:30pm Permalink
kdance (not verified)

In reply to by GarandFan (not verified)

comparing a PLANT, with proven medical benefits and proven health advantages over alcohol and tobacco (a proven track record of ZERO overdose-deaths), to two processed chemicals that cause instant, brutal, deadly addiction.... how stupid are you?

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:21pm Permalink
Chris Edens (not verified)

In reply to by GarandFan (not verified)

You are a fine example of the propaganda fed to the ignorant masses to misinform them about Marijuana and group it will much more addicting substances that are MANUFACTURED.

To me it sounds like you want to go back to prohibition and think it works.   Just an FYI, it's been proven throughout history it does not work.

The only argument I would award the anti-MJ position is potency.  I can have 1 beer and the effects are slight to not noticeable depending on your metabolism, while with Marijuana I can take just a small toke and feel the effects.

But then I go back to personal responsibility.  If someone wants to get tanked to the point of not remembering, alcohol will accomplish this.  Marijuana you will hit a point where you will just not get any more intoxicated.

There has never been an OD on Marijuana alone.  Yet, every other drug it is classified with has the risk.  Even Caffeine has an over dose level while MJ does not, this is proven scientific fact.








Fri, 10/01/2010 - 8:06pm Permalink
dave from NY (not verified)

Thats so way cool.

I have an idea, why stop at pot? crack, meth,heroin, why clog up the courts? so what if they have to rob you to get the cash to get high, so what that it will be a windfall of cash to the Mexican drug lords. Let the Mexicans die while we are feeding the killers of our southern brothers. When the air heads drive high, caus, hay, its just a ticket and kill hundreds a year because, well, its cool "even the cops don't care anymore, how bad can it be"?

This will all end in tears.

When will we learn from history?

When the state stops giving your money away, or everyone working moves out, it will all collaps and if you thought the Watts riots were bad, guys , you aint seen nothing yet.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:32pm Permalink
Lenard Gossa (not verified)

A lot of you morons have a huge misconception of the situation. It's marijuana not alcohol. I've never seen marijuana impair someone so much they killed their best friend and not know it. I've never someone so intoxicated on marijuana they beat the life out of the wife or children. It has been PROVEN that people driving under the influence of marijuana are actually more cautious of their surroundings. You who say smoking marijuana makes a person stupid are so misinformed and have no clue what your talking about.

Marijuana doesn't eat up your liver,stomach,kidneys,or even damage brain tissue for that matter. Actually it has been shown to protect your brain from the damage ALCOHOL causes from binge drinking.

You people need to read the facts and quit buying into government lies and propaganda. The time of "reefer madness" is over. Alcohol kills thousands of people every year. In 10,000 years of use not 1 single person has ever died directly from the use of Marijuana and you can take that to the bank...

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:33pm Permalink
HMMMM... (not verified)

Once upon a time, two decades ago, when I smoked dope all day long, I dreamed of the day when legalization would become a reality.  Well, I stopped smoking dope all day long and actually made a life for myself.  Fast forward and I have two children - I don't wish them to get caught into a trap of interesting but fleeting ideas with no motivation to pursue.  This decision is going to cause some bad outcomes for some people.  Having said that, I also don't believe in dictating what a free person does with their bodies.  I live on the East coast so I guess several decades will pass before such legislation arrives...

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:34pm Permalink
Danny Ross (not verified)

Prohibition of voluntary behavior that harms no one else is counterproductive.  The violence in Mexico is a direct result of prohibition in the USA.  All the legal costs to individuals and the state are a direct result of prohibition in the USA.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:36pm Permalink
2468 (not verified)

....And it's 1, 2, 3 what are we fightin' for,

don't ask me, I don't give a damn, next stop is Pakistan,

....and it's 5, 6, 7 open up the pearly gates,

ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee, we all gonna die.....

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:45pm Permalink
Anthony (not verified)

This guy was a complete failure for the people of California. How can he spend time on drug policy when the State is going broke.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:45pm Permalink
TurkeyLips (not verified)

So when a person under the influense of Grass kill a person while driving he is not responsible for the crime.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:46pm Permalink
laurie b. (not verified)

In reply to by TurkeyLips (not verified)

This law decriminalizes marijuana. It has nothing to do with driving. There are  laws that deal with inattentive or reckless driving. Just because one can smoke marijuana without being thrown in jail does not mean his responsibility to behave in a responsible manner has been erased. If I am drinking alcohol it is legal. I can still be prosecuted for manslaughter if I kill someone when driving under the influence.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:21pm Permalink
SilverSax (not verified)

In the New Testament, the word "sorceries" is mentioned as a great sin. Revelation 9:21 describes how men refused to repent of their "sorceries". Look up the original Greek word for "sorceries" and you'll find that it is "pharmakeia" - our root word for "pharmaceuticals". This is what God thinks of drugs.  

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:50pm Permalink
KevStr (not verified)

In reply to by SilverSax (not verified)

That's hilarious . . . what a load of crap!!! God created plants for us to use. This plant is not a drug . . . and it will help heal people being legal rather than allowing cops, traffickers, and gangs to kill people over it while it is illegal.



Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:07pm Permalink
SilverSax (not verified)

In reply to by KevStr (not verified)

Yes, God created plants for us to use. However, this plant is being abused. If God had meant it to be used psychotropically, He wouldn't have mentioned it as a sin.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:13pm Permalink
Anon3147 (not verified)

In reply to by SilverSax (not verified)

on the other hand, if he hadn't mean for it be used that way, he wouldn't have given it those properties.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:20pm Permalink
KevStr (not verified)

In reply to by SilverSax (not verified)

Nope, not true . . . It is a plant and not a drug(pharmaceutical). Drugs are created like meth, cocaine, nicotine, aspirin and alcohol. This plant produces THC all by its self and the receptors in our bodies are there for a reason. Take your argument about sin and preach it to kids. Us adults know the difference.



Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:34pm Permalink
SilverSax (not verified)

In reply to by KevStr (not verified)

Of course if you want nothing to do with God, that's entirely your business. It is my responsibility simply to pass along what He says. I can't (and wouldn't) force faith on anyone.

A great preacher once said, "Do you want God? Then you shall have Him. Do you not want God? Then you shall not have Him." Please consider the ramifications of your decision, though. This decision will determine your eternal future.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:48pm Permalink
SilverSax (not verified)

In reply to by KevStr (not verified)

Are you telling me cocaine in its basic plant form can't get you high? You know better than that. Same for mescaline and psychotropic mushrooms. Besides, marijuana is pharmaceutical-ized (is that a word?) It is turned into a pill called Marinol.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:58pm Permalink
Anon3147 (not verified)

In reply to by SilverSax (not verified)

what was the original hebrew word, I wonder? Be careful of making conclusions based on the wording of the bible. It's been translated and retranslated so many times over so many cultures that you can't rely on something like that. If you want directly translatable meaning, study classical hebrew and then read that passage. If the word still has a connotation for drug use IN THE CULTURE AS IT WAS AT THE TIME IT WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN, then your argument is valid. Until then, your premises are too weak for a good argument.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:19pm Permalink
SilverSax (not verified)

In reply to by Anon3147 (not verified)

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Chaldean. The New Testament was written in Greek. The word "pharmakeia" is the original word in the New Testament.

Those who argue that conclusions can't be drawn from the Bible based on translation are misinformed. The Bible is given to us specifically to draw conclusions, otherwise what good is it? The Bible says of itself in 2 Peter 1:20, "no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation." Prophecy, of course, means not only pre-telling a future event, but in its fullest sense, prophecy is a Word spoken by God to a man to give to other men. The Word here is: sorceries and witchcraft (pharmakeia) are sins.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:40pm Permalink
kdance (not verified)

In reply to by SilverSax (not verified)

the big problem here is that you believe in an authoritative entity that you cannot physically sense in any way, but you don't believe in medical research that proves this plant is indeed a wonderful gift to earth. so while some of us who put cannabis into our own bodies might be 'high', you, who cling to your dusty books and false beliefs, are simply insane. don't forget: god can't vote!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:32pm Permalink
SilverSax (not verified)

In reply to by kdance (not verified)

Have you ever seen planets orbiting stars in another galaxy? No. Do you believe they exist? Yes. You can't physically sense them in any way. Doesn't mean they aren't there, though.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:10pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.