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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.


Marc M (not verified)

Just what we all need, even more stoned lazy rejects collecting unemployment while they rot their brains away.

Car insurance rates will take a bump up now as well.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:57pm Permalink
kdance (not verified)

In reply to by Marc M (not verified)

would you prefer stoned lazy rejects, or angry drunks ruining their liver, causing *THOUSANDS* of deaths by driving under the influence and placing additional strain on our healthcare system and courts? i'll take the lazy stoner over a foul-mouthed, volatile drunk any day.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:36pm Permalink
HUMBLE NOT ARROGANT (not verified)

In reply to by kdance (not verified)

Yea Buddy well said

I Agree

Not all stoners are Lazy

But a Drunk digs his own Grave

Death comes from even his thoughts & speech

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:42pm Permalink
laurie b. (not verified)

You are a fool to insult tea party members. Many of us are libertarian and we believe individuals have the right to make decisions regarding what they put in their own bodies. I would not do drugs because I am an RN and drugs may affect my critical thinking. I would be fired as well. Actions have consequences. We should have the right to benefit or to suffer the consequences.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:57pm Permalink
Marc M (not verified)

Cut the lies for once.

I grew up around this stuff and every single person who didn't stop before age 20 is still sitting in their mom's basement, bouncing from job to job or in and out of jail.  It messes with peoples reaction times as much or more than the average person with a .08 BAC.

If you want to argue your "right" to do it based upon Alcohol being legal then be my guest, it's the only real argument you have.

The same laws that apply to drunk driving have to apply to pot.  The same laws that apply to cigarettes have to apply to pot, even stricter, since being near them can impair other peoples abilities.

If anything it should be restricted to indoor private places.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:02pm Permalink
kdance (not verified)

In reply to by Marc M (not verified)

hooray for that last sentence! but don't forget cannabis's proven medical benefits as well as the positive impact on law enforcement (less courts clogged with crimes concerning possession of a plant). nobody here is advocating driving under the influence. what we want is equality and the right to choose what we put in our body.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:38pm Permalink
Kline Driver (not verified)

Darwin as well as the right believe that all pot smokers should smoke as much pot as they can as often as they can.  And let anyone that wants to grow pot or give away pot or eat pot alone.  American's have the right to do stupid things.  How else to you explain Obama the Red in the Whitehouse?

However, we need to pass the law that anyone caught selling any illegal or prescription drug is to be executed!  If you take the money out of drugs and drug trafficking only the dope smokers will be left and they are too stupid or stoned to vote.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:04pm Permalink
Mother Nature (not verified)

In reply to by Kline Driver (not verified)

Please just walk away from that mixed drink on the table and learn to spell.


Come on now. Tell the truth.

You really wanted to say Blackhouse because of the family currently residing there I bet.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:04pm Permalink
Anon3147 (not verified)

I will still be voting no on 19. It's the wrong bill. As I understand it, 19 will basically give the MJ industry to big business. We've already seen what big business did to tobacco. Come on, guys--do we REALLY want that same thing to happen to our beloved MJ? They'll basically be cigarettes with pot instead of tobacco--all the same chemicals meant to make it stay lit, burn longer, make more smoke, w/e. Then thirty years from now people will start complaining about second-hand smoke from mj cigs and we'll see a re-illegalization, or at least a lot more restrictions like we have for cigs now.


Be patient, guys. Wait for 2012.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:04pm Permalink
SilverSax (not verified)

"pharmakeia" is also translated as "witchcraft" in Galatians 5:20, and is listed along with idolatry, murders, etc. The issue is not whether marijuana damages one physically, or whether one can drive under its influence. The issue is spiritual. Marijuana will "steal your soul." Please take these words to heart and consider whether getting high is worth being in opposition to God.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:09pm Permalink
a lowly trumpe… (not verified)

In reply to by SilverSax (not verified)

you do realize that some of the greatest musicians dead or alive smoked weed more than almost every casual smoker and created something more soulful then you could probably ever create? you can name any kind of genre of music and there have been people who smoke weed in that category to help with creative expression

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:13pm Permalink
Anonymous Doug (not verified)

When the new drug epidemic breaks out in the schools, will the Gov see that as his responsibility?

How long before murder, arson, etc. become misdemeanors because the court system can't afford to take the time to try them?

Does any of this help improve Cali's job rate? It would make sense that a number of new drug dealerships would get started, funneling cash into the underground economy, since you have to pay taxes to hold a legitimate job. I guess drug testing for a job would have to be null and void as well.

Maybe Arnold should go back to acting since this is what he seems to do best.

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

When the new drug epidemic breaks out in the schools, will the Gov see that as his responsibility?

How long before murder, arson, etc. become misdemeanors because the court system can't afford to take the time to try them?

Does any of this help improve Cali's job rate? It would make sense that a number of new drug dealerships would get started, funneling cash into the underground economy, since you have to pay taxes to hold a legitimate job. I guess drug testing for a job would have to be null and void as well.

Maybe Arnold should go back to acting since this is what he seems to do best.

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

It's about time!

Use our law enforcement resources to go after rapists, thieves and child molesters.

Too many cops spend too much time chasing pot smokers because it's so easy to find them.


Kudos to you Govenator!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:18pm Permalink
txgrandma420 (not verified)

Now if you get busted for a joint you can still have a scholarship! Wow! I think it is great because I lost my scholarship over a roach and a pipe. Now that my children are all grown, I will speak out and let myself be heard and let the truths be known!

In an interview with Obama, during his campaign,  Obama even said himself that cops need to be out fighting crimes instead of MJ smokers. It's on YouTube and its one of his campaign promises that didn't happen. In fact, there are record mj arrests now that he is in office just for smoking. Arnold knows this, and probably wanted to know who Obama was trying to fool? Arnold asked for a debate, Obama laughed in his face and all of our faces about it when it was the number one question on the White Houses Website in an online Townhall meeting. even though he knew it was the number one question; Obama chose to ignore it, laugh about it and go on. Finally the govenator took matters into his own hands and did the right thing!!!!! No one should loose their college scholarship over a joint or even a roach!!!!

I would definitely say it is a step in the right direction!!!  Thank you Arnold.  The below link is where Obama in 2004 saying the war on drugs has failed, and pot needs to be decriminalized.  What the hell happened. Oh yeah, he became President.

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

Cut to the guts of it.....MONEY!  If there are any decent God fearing people in California now is the time to leave!  Everything that was/is illegal in California is now or in the future legal.  What's next Arnie....taxing  murder for hire??  Not much left to tax in Cali!!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:20pm Permalink
Anonymous8822 (not verified)

This is clearly a step in the wrong direction. We need more people with power poking their noses into other people's business and more laws that allow the people with power to invade our privacy. Its what the country was founded on!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:22pm Permalink
Big Ed (not verified)

It's about time!

Use our law enforcement resources to go after rapists, thieves and child molesters.

Too many cops spend too much time chasing pot smokers because it's so easy to find them.


Kudos to you Govenator!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:23pm Permalink
wakeupamerica (not verified)

Good, the drug war is as bad as it is because when you make something illegal, you create a market for it. If everyone could grow and possess their own supply - the value on the street = nothing.


Secondly, this plant is one of the most wonderful plants EVER. It loves sun and water - it will grow nearly ANYWHERE because its roots penetrate deeply into the soil. And it's many uses cannot be compared to by any other commodity outside of oil.


This stuff can make paper that never fades, textiles of amazing strength, the original levi jeans were made of hemp. The seed itself is full of large amounts of nutrients. And the benefits from medical use are just now finally being realized.


It could literally replace the paper industry, no more trees would EVER have to fall outside of for lumber - and the first car made by henry ford ran on hemp oil.


Wake up America, we were once the most impressive civilization on earth... what has happened to our mighty peoples? We have been traitors to our own kind. What a horrible age to live in anymore.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:27pm Permalink
UncommonSense (not verified)

Yes. Lets smoke more Pot so we can save the economy. Ever here of Opium in China? Look it up.

The USA didn't become the most powerful country in the world by smoking pot. you people are worthless. you are sheep who only follow.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:31pm Permalink

I'm so happy for you folks out there in California. I was never big on his movies until now. I am going to buy all of them. Except maybe Conan...ah what the heck I'll buy that one too. I don't use MJ because its just not for me. I will ALWAYS support a persons freedom of their own body.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:33pm Permalink
Common Sense (not verified)

Prop 19 is about the stupidest thing around. For one who wants to pay $10 for a joint? What do you think the cost of weed will be once the Government starts slapping taxes all over it. Taxing the growers, the distributors, etc. Just like they did to the cigarette industry. Of course once they slap a few taxes on it then they will continue to raise taxes on it (just like cigarettes). This of course will drastically INCREASE the price of weed. So people will turn to the black market (ie Mexican Cartel) for supplies. But now the government has a stake in things as drug smuggling will directly interfere with their bottom line. So they will go after people for "unpaid taxes". So now you will need proof of ownership for you weed or you may face an audit for tax evasion. (Ask Al Capone why he went to jail).

This idea is much better. It loosens the restrictions for those that would use for personal use, while at the same time does not impose taxes or regulations on a market they are not equipped to manage.

GOVERNMENT is never good at "running" business. If Prop 19 passes, the Government now has a financial stake (profits) in the collection of taxes and fines.

They will nickel and dime people who use it to death. Of course you will also have social programs where the poor or unemployed will need their weed for free so then of course not only are you paying taxes for Government Mismanagement of funds, you will also now be paying to support the ones who can't afford the entertainment but still want to take part in it.

Experiement. Go to the ghetto and buy everyone you see a bag of weed every day for a week. Feel better?

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

The drug lords are smiling.  The Governator just opened the door a little wider for the durg & death merchants who kill each other primarily south of the border.  Now we are saying it's OK to get a little more engaged with the stupid Americans.

Well done, California.  America is so proud of you.

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

How can a man be said to be free if he doesn’t even have sovereignty over his own body? No true conservative, indeed, no true American would ever even question why marijuana should be legalized.

“Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”- Ronald Reagan

We know from their written records that presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew marijuana on their farms in Virginia – and neither as much as applied to the state for a permit.

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” – Thomas Jefferson

Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Clueless Comrade Barry have all admitted to smoking marijuana to get high. That’s at least five presidents of the United States that would be felons under the marijuana prohibition laws of several states– even though their actions brought no harm to anyone. This is ridiculous.

It makes no difference what the “unintended consequences” are or may be concerning a man’s right to do that which does no harm to another. For the spirit of man to ascend, men must be free to make their own choices, even their own mistakes, especially, in fact, their own mistakes.

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.”– George Washington

In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, no one cares what you smoke or how many harmless plants you grow as long as you’re not out trying to rape, rob or murder somebody or figure out a way to scam a handout from your productive countrymen.

We need to send these Nanny State Fascists back to Europe where they belong and return this country to the Rugged Individualists who know what freedom and free enterprise are all about.

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

Sic simper tyrannis.





Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:42pm Permalink
Leonard Krivit… (not verified)

Cannabis is less physically addictive than caffeine, while the so-called "gateway drug" theory is a complete fantasy, and it was just recently called "half-baked" as a result of a scientific study. CNN reported that Cocaine use has dropped sharply, by 30% since 2002, which is really good news. I worked in addiction medicine for years, and this is what I can advice on the matter: Any suppression of Cannabis use will be immediately followed by an increase in alcohol/hard drug/prescription drug abuse! You don't believe me? Then maybe you will believe the Big Alcohol lobby that is financing the Cannabis Legalization opponents for exactly this reason. Right now Cannabis is just simply perceived as a much safer alternative to alcohol/hard drugs, which is precisely how it should be perceived. To have a society in which there is NO psychoactive substance use is an illusion, and it will be good for our government to realize this. So then, it becomes a matter of "safer choices", just like with the sex education. And Cannabis is, without a shadow of a doubt, a much safer choice than alcohol or hard drugs! Just very recently a research study in addiction medicine has determined that Cannabis may actually serve as an "exit" substance for recovering alcoholics/hard drug addicts! And there is another extremely important property of Cannabis that the prohibitionists would love to keep secret: Cannabis use suppresses violent urges and behaviors and, as one prestigious textbook says, "Only the unsophisticated think otherwise" Then, of course, there is a potential for Cannabis in chronic pain, where other drugs may be ineffective (or physically addictive), with very important potential implications for our wounded veterans, many of whom have chronic pain. It is also worth noting that Cannabis may have certain preventative value for such devastating conditions as cancer and Alzheimer's disease. And all this comes with no danger of overdoses or induction of a physical dependence! Let's be very happy that the cocaine abuse rate is dropping. Let's not interfere with these dynamics, and then we can possibly achieve what has already been achieved in the Netherlands where the drug overdose rate is 85%(!!) lower than in the US, and that is with much more liberal Cannabis possession laws than in this country! Maybe it is time to give up "dogma" about Cannabis, and to start listening to the experts, if we really want to lower the alcohol/hard drug use in this country, and the accompanying dependencies and overdoses!?

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:44pm Permalink
JimmyStewart (not verified)

Idiotic. Arnold is such a disappointment. Deliver us from such amoral leaders. Wake up America.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:44pm Permalink
RobR (not verified)

In reply to by ReaganAdams (not verified)

Ah the fresh smell of rediculous fallacy in the morning. That kind of argument being used and still being used is insane to me. It's simple to use I suppose but completely illogical if you think about it REALLY think about the actual relationship between pot and gay marriage or that if you legalize gay marriage it's only a slippery slope to marrying a goat or something. Just a couple examples im using so no opinion intended. Those ill call 'em "Slippery slope" arguements are fallacy. They don't make sense and hopefully the past will repeat itself and hate will subside. Try saying something like "African american rights should be revoked cause it's only a matter of time until we legalize a dogs right to vote" outloud.
Feels stupid dont it?

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:05pm Permalink
SockRayBlue (not verified)

This makes absolutely no sense. It is a federal crime. Is California's governor planning on his state becoming a solitary state? Not that it would bother the other 49 states.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:51pm Permalink
RobR (not verified)

In reply to by SockRayBlue (not verified)

It's the same situation as it was with medical. The DEA kept shutting down legal medicinal operations. Federal is seperate from state laws and feds can do whatever they want within their law. Basically everyone who wants to use this bill is still gonna have to be on the down-low but instead of walking on egg-shells, tip-toeing should do fine.

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

I was wondering what that smell was wafting into Colorado from a westerly direction. Now I know the real reason I was feeling so high in the Colorado mountains:

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:56pm Permalink
NewYorker (not verified)

Don't be fooled.  New York has had similar laws for 30 years.  Possession of less than 25 grams is an infraction (same level offense as a traffic ticket) with no jail time and minimal fine.  Miraculously, everyone who gets busted in NY seems to fall under the misdemeanor category.

This is from Wikipedia, but you can find numerous studies of the NYPD and their hyperaggressive marijuana enforcement strategies all over the Internet:

New York City remains the cannabis-arrest capital of the world, with over 40,000 arrests in 2008. Despite New York's decriminalization of simple possession, New York City police arrest suspects for possession in public view, which remains a misdemeanor. During a Terry stop, officers may falsely suggest that a suspect should voluntarily reveal contraband to avoid arrest, then arrest the suspect if he reveals cannabis to public view.[


Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:02pm Permalink
MDWhite (not verified)

It would be nice of there was some honesty here. This isn't about freedom or economics or reducing crime.

It's about a bunch of shagged-out losers who've never grown up and want to re-live the ' 60s.

Pot and all "recreational" drugs are for pathetic losers who want to remain children for the rest of their lives. The only things I've ever seen come out of their use was grief, pain, broken homes, wasted money, corrupted lives and addiction.

Why don't you all grow up and stop wrapping yourselves in the Constitution and the flag in a pathetic attempt to validate your adolescent emotional need to get high, stay high and have everybody else pay the price for your arrested emotional development.

It's all crap for people with crap for brains.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:08pm Permalink
Commones (not verified)

  With all that is going on in California, this is what Gov. S does? You people are in more trouble than I thought!  Plus it's still fully illegal under federal law - so you can still be jailed. Leave it up to our idiot legislators to so something stupid like this. You want your kid to start getting stoned all the time? California = LOSERS!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:13pm Permalink
docpsych34 (not verified)

I have never understood how after Roe Vs Wade anyone could square prohibition of drugs. If a women has the right to privacy in her body, and the right to kill a baby being produced in her body how could any thinking person prosecute someone for doing drugs? All prohibition should be abolished including the prohibition of Pot. I hope Prop 19 passes.

NEVER EVER VOTE FOR A DEMOCRAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:21pm Permalink

if the Democrats bring tyranny to the Federal Gov't  (and they don't you're just a paranoid sore loser and maybe you need to take a couple tokes to mellow out) then what the Republicans bring to the Federal Gov't is a permanent caste system the very rich and the very poor

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:22pm Permalink
J.G. (not verified)

How dangerous is it to decriminalize marijuana?  Will it cause mistakes on the production line, late for class lazy teachers, stoned students?  Isn't this imposing yet another of the 10 pillars of the C. Manifesto to collapse America

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:25pm Permalink

Its already out there. Consider that it hasn't yet caused these things. Further studies commissioned by the great Mayor LaGuardia of NYC showed that students who smoked pot regularly got above average grades, whereas students who drank beer performed below average. 

Noone is going to 'start smoking pot' just because its legal; they are already smoking it! Ask the cops - pot smokers are not a problem. Meanwhile drunk drivers still kill tens of thousands every year in America; tax the alcohol industry for that many lives and the cost of all the time the cops spend working just to try to reduce the carnage.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 9:09pm Permalink
jpappleseed (not verified)

I guess the obama administration only applies supremacy clause when it suits the administration.


someone should tell the terminator that not enforcing or weakening laws because of budget constraints is a stupid policy.  someone should also tell him that even for an infraction, the person still has the right to go to court.  so is he saying that if you make the penalty low enough, then people will be more apt not to seek out due process and just pay the fine?  that seems like a bad precedence.  i'm sure the ACLU won't pursue that erosion of the judicial system.


how about toughening up illegal immigration and stop wasting money on illegals' education and medical care in California, maybe they can get some cash that way.  Maybe they should put the actors actually in jail like regular people when they get caught drinking and driving, taking drugs, etc., so it isn't glamorized.  california should tax porn more, that will generate huge amounts of money.


for NORML, next we might as well not go after murderers, rapists, and drunk drivers, because those are also a waste of law enforcement resources.  murderers kill less people than car accidents, so we shouldn't waste resources pursuing them.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:25pm Permalink
Anonymous999 (not verified)

I agree with Arnold. Most cops don't lock up people for a joint unless you are doing something else too. Also, everybody has their own responsibility as a person of what they can and can not do. Besides its the same effect to having a few glasses of wine or beer.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:32pm Permalink
Non-smoking Ca… (not verified)

Bout F'n time!

State is still going down in flames  due to it's crushing public employee entitlements.

That aside, looky at us, were big boys now!

The  fact that it has been illegal for so long is, as an American with many friends from other countries, embarrassing. "Land of the free?" they say.

Just like the end of prohibition broke the back of Al Capones criminal network, this too will break the back

of both the Mexican and American drug cartels. Now thousands of Californians won't have to buy drug cartel weed from seedy back alleys anymore.

Congrats Gov. you done good...for once.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:32pm Permalink
lowmax_1313 (not verified)

people all over the country are worrying about the trillions of dollars of debt we have to pay off to China and others for financing our two wars: for those people i say two things 1. legalize marijuana 2. tax it like alcohol and cigarettes and with 40+ million admitted users(actually i hate that word,how about..tokers..or from back in the day Heads) it would take about oh i don't know 2 or 3 years to pay off the National debt maybe 4 or 5 but you get the idea.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:34pm Permalink

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