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California Legislature Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #647)

Just hours before the state's legislative session ended Tuesday, the California Assembly voted to approve SB 1449, Sen. Mark Leno's bill to fully decriminalize simple marijuana possession. The bill passed the Senate in June and now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.

The vote was 43-33 and largely along party lines. Democrats supported the bill 40-8, while Republicans opposed it 23-2.

Under current California law, possession of less than an ounce of pot is punishable by no more than a $100 fine, but is still a misdemeanor. That means people busted for a joint or a half-bag must be arrested, booked, and appear in court, and they get a criminal record. It also means meaningless work for the police and the courts.

Marijuana possession is the only California misdemeanor with a set maximum fine and no possible jail time. The Leno bill changes the offense to an infraction, meaning no arrest, no booking, no court appearance, and no criminal record.

"The penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a fine of $100, with no jail time," Leno said on introducing the bill. "If the penalty is $100, with no jail time, that is an infraction. That is not a misdemeanor."

Keeping simple possession a misdemeanor has had "serious unintended consequences," the San Francisco Democrat said. "As the number of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests have surged in recent years, reaching 61,388 in 2008, the burden placed on the courts by these low level offenses is just too much to bear at a time when resources are shrinking and caseloads are growing."

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.


Anonymousjjkkj… (not verified)

Recession is causing the rise in marijuana/drug trafficking, illegal trade and sales, thus increase in use.  If you can't cope, then dope.

If CA, the USA and the rest of the world are prosperous like in the 1980s, there will be little need to do drug trafficking. But people are desperate and they are willing to take risks for money. They know the government is strapped in resources in regards to enforcement so they take advantage of this.

The 2010 decade will be known for "If you can't cope, then dope." decade.



Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:46pm Permalink
Anonymous247 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymousjjkkj… (not verified)

So i guess before 1937 when marijuana was legal, it was all about if u cant cope then dope? You have to read a little history before you make senseless comments.

Wed, 09/01/2010 - 11:34pm Permalink
not unreasonable. (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymousjjkkj… (not verified)

catchy little slogan.  clever how you can rhyme words like that.  I think that's the extent of your cleverness.

Thu, 09/02/2010 - 2:51pm Permalink
Anonymous59372 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymousjjkkj… (not verified)

The economy was good in the 1980's... We suffered rampant unemployment during the 80's... Besides, there was plenty of drug trafficking in the 1980's
Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:45am Permalink
Anonymous59372 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous59372 (not verified)

I meant was NOT good in the 1980's......
Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:46am Permalink
Anonymous777 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymousjjkkj… (not verified)

I guess you just woke up this morning and decided you knew what motivates millions of Americans to support marijuana law reform.  What you conservative wingnuts don't want to publicly admit is that marijuana use  is a social aggregate of human beings fully aware that you people got a lot of things wrong.  And all the rhetoric about the need to maintain economic and military superiority trumping enlightened social change is just the proverbial carrot on the stick, keeping us performing, but preventing  ever achieving new ways of doing things. We know that your endless rules and hoops that must be continually jumped thru to maintain our "station in life"; are also an insurmountable wall preventing growth in directions that you do not desire. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Sat, 09/18/2010 - 3:59pm Permalink
Ken123 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymousjjkkj… (not verified)

god, I hate when uneducated people talk, LEARN ABOUT MARIJUANA BEFORE YOU TALK! marijuana is a miracle plant, dont tell me I can drink alcohol or carry guns or pop prescription drugs and smoke cigarettes which all kill thousands of people every year but I can use a harmless, natural grown plant. I cant wait till it becomes legalized!!!!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 10:03pm Permalink

Definitely a major step in the right direction.  Let's hope our Good Governor agrees and puts pen to paper as soon as possible.  Fear and willful ignorance are no longer acceptable tactics, and pssst, here's a little secret: they never worked anyway.  Punitive prohibition has been spread from the United States into the rest of the world with disastrous consequences to hard working, professional people who benefit from cannabis in their lives.  The Berlin wall of the War on Drugs is falling, my friends, can you hear it?

Wed, 09/01/2010 - 8:34pm Permalink
Forced_to_Drink (not verified)

Think of the Economic Devastation this is going to have on the wrecker drivers and impound lots.  Each simple possession arrest earns them easy money that they work hard for, following around the local cops at each traffic stop.

The fine may only be 100$, but getting your car back will cost a lot more than that.  

But on a more serious note...   this would be a step in the right direction.  It would show the Chicken Littles of this country that the sky is not falling because of a natural product that is less toxic than tobacco, less deadly than alcohol, and simply put... is just a plant.

Thu, 09/02/2010 - 10:44am Permalink
Anonymous12345… (not verified)

In reply to by Forced_to_Drink (not verified)

Yeah it will become the same as alcohol if your caught drinking while driving your car is impounded and you are fined and whatever else your state laws say will happen,  NOT "ECONOMIC DEVISTATION".

Wed, 09/22/2010 - 3:51pm Permalink

They quietly passed it  juuuuust a few hours before the end of session, but it is a step in the right direction.

....but has Gov. Arnold given any public indication as to whether or not he'll actually sign it ?

(...and if he doesn't will we be allowed to flood the net with that clip of him smoking in the 'Pumping Iron' movie?)


+ B +

Thu, 09/02/2010 - 2:39pm Permalink
FSmith (not verified)

ok first Andy i certainly hope other countries dont look to america for leadership in the area of decriminalization. this country of ours is seriously behind the curve, as far as legislation and environmentalism. thats also just one state. im living in middle america were possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable with up to three years, and any second offense of a marijuana related charge (can be just paraphernalia, no pot involved), is a felony. ive been arrested twice now for possession of things that were not even mine. it happens quite frequently with penalties that are so outrageous. anyway my point is that its only baby steps until its nation wide. and if arnold vetos this bill it will be simply from political pressure being that he is republican and only two of the republicans on the board voted for the bill, it seems that the republican party is not to fond of the idea of giving people freedoms, after they works so hard through the bush years to take so many of them away.

Tue, 09/07/2010 - 5:18pm Permalink
Leonard Krivit… (not verified)

Cannabis decriminalization/Legalization is the only sane thing to do under the circumstances. For one thing, it will eliminate the wasteful spending on the so-called anti-Cannabis "enforcement". It is established by the science of addiction medicine that the so-called "gateway drug" theory, advanced by the opponents of the measure is a complete fantasy, as is the assertion that Cannabis is "physically addictive". Cannabis is NOT physically addictive, as there is no clearly definable and reproducible PHYSICAL withdrawal syndrome, associated with its use, as opposed to truly physically addictive substances such as opiates or alcohol. In fact, the latest addiction medicine research reveals that Cannabis may serve as an "exit" substance with the potential of helping former alcoholics or hard drug users to abstain from alcohol, hard drugs, or even dangerous and physically addictive prescription drugs! It is also being established that Cannabis use may help prevent such serious illnesses as cancer and Alzheimer's disease! Cannabis use also suppresses violent urges and behaviors. Let's not be intimidated by the scare-tactics of the "opponents", but be motivated instead by science, reason and understanding of these issues, and this means Cannabis decriminalization ASAP!

Fri, 09/10/2010 - 5:06pm Permalink
Robert Doyle (not verified)

In reply to by Leonard Krivit… (not verified)

Thank you for stepping out with your bold, accurate, and inciteful comments! If you have any literature, research, or other medical documentation you wish to share about &  put your name on, please let me know so that people like me can help educate the public and further advance legalization efforts in this country.

Sat, 09/11/2010 - 5:05pm Permalink
Daryl Mainar (not verified)

Did you know that 

marijuana plant can make four time more paper than tree... Stronger and better cloth than cotton....

Oil extracted from marijuana plant can burn four time better than ethanol..  It's call methanol..

Also many medical benefits... this mean.. planet green, cheaper medicines, and happier people.. 

What are we waiting for??

Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:37am Permalink
Anonymous420su… (not verified)

First, the Republicans are not the party of taking away or denying rights, The Democratic party is.  The Dems imprisoned the women involved in suffrage and had them tortured.  The Dems didn't want the slaves free.  The Dems were formed by the rich southern plantation owners, and their money and descendants still control that party today.  Study your history.  Bush did what he needed to do to stop terrorists attacks in this country and it worked so quit your brainwashed crying.

Just because Arnold is a Republican, doesn't mean he will not sign this.  He has signed many bills the Republicans opposed this term.  He is not running for office again.  He ran on the balance the budget platform, and the money this will save the state is huge. 

I for one also live in a state where even a clean piece of paraphernalia can get you a jail sentence and a criminal record.

Contrary to what was written, the eighties were not prosperous, and this bill has nothing to do with drug trafficking, it is about simple possession for personal use in small quantities, not amounts for trafficking.  If the eighties were so "good" as you wrongly recall and there was no need for people to traffic in drugs,  then why is that when the "war on drugs" that started the modern attack against drug use and trafficking?

It will be very interesting to see if he does sign this bill into law.  He has 12 days to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature, my guess is he will do the latter.

Everyone needs to get over this Dem is good and Rep is bad thing in California.  It was the Dems who have broken the bank in California, and your Dem Rep who controls the Fed house that is breaking this countries bank.

Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:03pm Permalink
TheWonderPlant (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous420su… (not verified)

There is no republicans there is no democrats it is the united states government you really think the war in Iraq is on terrorism you are blind its all over oil... (never would have happened if hemp was legal)

Tue, 10/19/2010 - 5:03pm Permalink
Vanessa Brown (not verified)

I have never been able to grasp this... legal one way, illegal the other.. How can that be right to civilized and educated countries?  Makes no sense never will.  Think of alcohol, once prohibited, now legal, so what's the big point, what's all the noise over?  Nothing really, we just like making our citizens victims and incarcerating our young for something that is evidently not wrong, but wrong because some selfish and gutless politicians aren't making a buck or two off it.  Wait till the good ole tobacco companies, find a way to control that market and that's where the policies get changed....


WE as citizens should not stand up for this crap, and such vast differences between state and federal law, one should back the other.. and we should admit when we are wrong... criminalizing marijuana was wrong to begin with, time to reverse that on a federal, not just on a state level.

And we should be free to update our laws as we are better educated and wisen up, with technology and new discoveries.  Marijuana is much less worse than half of the "legal" pharmaceuticals marketed by drug companies, FDA, and CDC  and these have far more deadly consequences and deadly side effects.

Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:54pm Permalink

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