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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.


Leonard Krivit… (not verified)

We celebrate and move forward full-speed! This Struggle will be won step-by-step, and not all at once. Those "all or none" approaches to this issue do not work. We take what we can along the way, and then move towards complete Cannabis Freedom. Can you imagine what it would have been if we had listened to those fools from "stoners against Prop. 19"? Then the Campaign would have been way behind and Gov. Arnold would have felt no incentive to sign the "decriminalization" Bill, and as a result, the California Cannabis Community would have been left with nothing. Thanks God this has not happened!

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

We don't need another law!!! Leave it alone. Prop. 15 and SB420 are enough!  Cannabis is medical. Stop the trend to tax our medicine. Prop. 19 puts our children in the lime light. If my sixteen year old has cancer and a recommendation from his/her doctor and is caught with pot, after a chemo therapy, he or she can be arrested and although they may win in court by going back to prove Prop 15... more cost to the tax payer and untold heartache to the cancer victim and his or her family.  By giving local government more power in this matter, there will be one court battle after another as each County has different views, some looking forward and some STUCK in the past. There is so much about cannabis that has lived in the dark, it is time to do more research and bring in the light of facts.  Read  Prop 19 and learn who is pushing this, the tobacco industries who are buying up CA land at an alarming rate to grow commercially.  SAY NO TO BIG BUSINESS AND TAXES, VOTE NO ON PROP 19.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:16pm Permalink
Robert Abramson (not verified)

What good comes from legalizing pot?? Absolutly nothing. This proposition is ridiculous. It is a gateway drug for kids and does nothing but burn people out. I am 48 years old and I have seen the results of people who began smoking pot as kids and where those people have ended up. You are insane.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 6:14pm Permalink
Anonymousxxx (not verified)

In reply to by Robert Abramson (not verified)

 I am 48 years old and I have seen the results of people who began smoking pot as kids and where those people have ended up.

Those people would have been losers anyways.  Use some common sense - stop playing the victim.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 7:12pm Permalink
boogle dangle waffle (not verified)

In reply to by Robert Abramson (not verified)

Even if your comments are true, I've seen people use pot without it affecting their academics or intelligence. I can't say the same thing for hard core drugs. I also remember high school, when several students got drunk and pretty much acted terribly. Not so with the pot heads.


As for gateway drugs for children, that would be drinking cough syrup and smoking real cigarettes, not to mention alcohol.


I am no stoner but I can't see a decent argument for keeping it illegal, sorry.


Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing.

Sat, 10/02/2010 - 6:52am Permalink
Andre Preneur (not verified)

Prop 19 will decimate the current pot growers - and open the door to Monsanto, Cargil and the rest of the genetically modified multinational agritech ghouls. Frankenweed... just what you need, eh?

Sat, 10/02/2010 - 4:26am Permalink
Clarajean (not verified)

NO NO NO on 19..The states have had their chance to tax and regulate and they would never do it, so now you just need to legalize it totally and let people grow, grow, grow. Check out the old Alaskan law, you could possess almost as much as you wanted but you could not sell it...that is the best way to legalize

Sat, 10/02/2010 - 8:27pm Permalink
HELPING TEENS … (not verified)


Call it pot, grass, weed, or any one of nearly 200 other names, marijuana is, by far, the world’s most commonly used illicit drug—and far more dangerous than most users realize. So, there is just cause for alarm when adolescent marijuana us...e increases, as it did in the mid-1990’s, and the age at which youngsters first experiment with pot starts to drops.

Marijuana has been around for a long while. Its source, the hemp plant (cannabis sativa), was being cultivated for psychoactive properties more than 2,000 years ago. Although cannabis contains at least 400 different chemicals, its main mind-altering ingredient is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).The amount of THC in marijuana determines the drug’s strength, and THC levels are affected by a great many factors, including plant type, weather, soil, and time of harvest. Sophisticated cannabis cultivation of today produces high levels of THC and marijuana that is far more potent than pot of the past. THC content of marijuana, which averaged less than 1 percent in 1974, rose to an average 4 percent by 1994.

For the highly popular form of marijuana called Sinsemilla (from the Spanish "without seeds"), made from just the buds and flowering tops of female plants, THC content averages 7.5 percent and ranges as high as 24 percent. As for hashish, a resin made from flowers of the female plant, THC levels may be five to ten times higher than crude marijuana’s. 
Sun, 10/03/2010 - 5:00pm Permalink
Jordan Heller (not verified)

Amen.. Bout time Arnie grew a pair. well done even if just for political gain and not looking like a complete jerk and follower of the feds.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:32am Permalink
Jordan Heller (not verified)

One last remark.. This has got to be the final push that prop 19 needs or may not have needed to pass. The world is about to change and for the better. I am so happy right now and not sure if I will be able to sleep. I am in Arizona and things will change here too.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:51am Permalink
Anonymous121 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous123 (not verified)



If the Tea Party is really about getting back to the Constitution, then they should be in support of not making retarded laws that are repressive and harsh. As for Sheriff Joe, his actions have never shown any kind of fascism unless you are accounting for him being a Police Officer which the creation of a police force is based on fascism. However, their job is to enforce the laws currently on the books. If you think a law is retarded (in my opinion retarded means the laws favors one side or another to the detriment of the other since laws should favor no one), then work to get it changed and he will have to enforce what laws are on the books. Until you can point out a fact (in my opinion the word fact is used to reflect information ground in real and tangible evidence and not of fictitious manner) about Joe beign a true Fascist, then please do not slander people, it makes you look stupid.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 2:56pm Permalink
tommyt212002 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous121 (not verified)

 Your right, I'm a staunch libertarian and i also think the tea party is a good cause. True concervatives ( not the social douches) should support this if they truly support small gov and the constitution. so to others on this board don't group all Tea Party members or Concervatives into one group. if you look around you will find plenty of people like me!

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:41pm Permalink
tham (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous123 (not verified)

As usual, "progressives" don't realize their big central government "leaders" have a lot invested in maintaining the drug war.  There is a strong libertarian element within the so-called tea party movement which opposes the drug war and most drug laws.  Please refer to Ron Paul's positions on the drug war and anti-marijuana statutes.  The libertarian movement would have ended the drug war LONG ago.

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

In reply to by Anonymous123 (not verified)

You are a fool for insulting Tea Party members. Many of us are libertarians and believe each individual is responsible for his own behavior. I am a nurse. I would not do drugs because it may affect my critical thinking and I would also be fired. I do not believe that it is the business of the government. You shoot yourself in the foot when you insult others.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:24pm Permalink
Atticus (not verified)

In reply to by laurie b. (not verified)

Too much debate about a simple matter... LEGALIZE IT... Oh, and smoke weed every day :)

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:03pm Permalink
paul bier (not verified)

Now Washington can follow, we need the money for are state, and its well over due.

California is really doing something smart and bold, the gate is now open.

Down with the lies that marijuana is so bad, the truth is out.

Marijuana is a healing plant that has more use than we know,

its incredibly ridiculous that its illegal to posses use or grow marijuana.

Free the earths healing plants for the people that it has all ways been intended

for! Let the earth heal us so we can care for the earth as long as the life still thrives.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 6:37am Permalink
Jerry Garcia (not verified)

In reply to by kateascot (not verified)

LOL ...ok go roll around in poison ivy ... let me know how that works out for ya.  Grass should be legal because it's dumb that it's not ... not because of some hippie BS that it will solve the world's problems.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 2:49pm Permalink
Phil E. Drifter (not verified)

In reply to by Jerry Garcia (not verified)

Plants have been studied for thousands of years and there are thousands of plants that have been cataloged and categorized for all the remedies they provide.

So not poison ivy, oak, or sumac, but did you know even aspirin is nothing more than a synthetic version of a substance that grows in a certain type of tree's bark?

"Willow: The Aspirin Tree

Aspirin may be the best known pharmaceutical in the world, but its basic ingredient has been known in Europe and North America as a natural remedy for centuries."

You know, you have a near-infinite amount of information at your fingertips and you could have spent just a few minutes investigating, but instead you decided to run your mouth like some grade school punk.

So why don't *you* go roll around in some poison ivy and then tell us about it?

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

In reply to by Phil E. Drifter (not verified)

Oh I know all the claims by the pot hippies about how it's a miracle drug ... it's the general "plants are for healing" bit up top that I find silly ... plenty of plants are harmful and/or down right deadly ... to say generically that pot is not dangerous because it's a plant is simplistic to the point of absurdity.  Relax dude - I'm on your side here ... go roll a joint and calm down.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 5:51pm Permalink
ozman (not verified)

In reply to by Jerry Garcia (not verified)

Sure I will go roll around in poison ivy Ive been around it on the farm for years,I have never gotten a case of poison ivy.And neither has my sister.

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


It's a wonderful time to be a Californian.

Today Decriminalization. Tomorrow Legalization. But there is one final thing on my wish list. . .

Total amnesty for the half a million people with simple possession charges on their record. It should never have been a crime to begin with.

And last but not least, thank you Governor Schwartzenegger. With the signing of one senate bill, you've gone a long way towards redeeming yourself -- in my eyes, anyway :-D   

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 7:32am Permalink
wasted (not verified)

In reply to by Rexcasual (not verified)

Talk about a waste of money and resources on both sides:

I was denied my US citizenship because i had more than one (i had 2) bud possession charges in less than 5 years.

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

In reply to by wasted (not verified)

Stop smoking/dealing then moron.  What will you want next, citizenship rights even though you killed 2 people?  Figure it out pot head, we don't want retards being made citizens. We have enough of those, backing people like you to be made citizens.  We don't need more.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 3:29pm Permalink
loneranger (not verified)

In reply to by BobHope (not verified)

Wow, I am sure glad to that our constitution allows even allows idiots and morons to have free speech. Maybe you should focus your ignorance on your priest or pastor molesting children than to have such a strong negitive feeling towards people you know nothing about, One can only hope when you are confronted with a life changing event someone will be sympathetic to your plight...

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

In reply to by BobHope (not verified)

Only an idiot would equate smoking pot with murder.

That kind of thinking is a huge part of the overall problem.

I don't want to live by your rules, religion or warped sense of values.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:22pm Permalink
Phil E. Drifter (not verified)

In reply to by Mother Nature (not verified)

rAmen! I hope one day to be touched by His Noodly Appendage!

(think *my* religion is retarded? it's just as retarded as yours. I think they only way to get this cancer of religion off the planet is to humiliate people into thinking rationally.)

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 4:46pm Permalink
Leroy (not verified)

In reply to by Phil E. Drifter (not verified)

"I think they only way to get this cancer of religion off the planet is to humiliate people into thinking rationally"



maybe while we're out campaigning for people to respect our right to live our lives the way we please, we should also respect their right to do the same.

It doesn't bother me one bit if a fundamentalist christian wants to live their life by a strict moral code, just don't ask me to do the same.

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

We so need this law here in Canada ! it's about time

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 8:16am Permalink
CharieR (not verified)

In reply to by Gloria (not verified)

Yes, we do.  This simple act would make a world of difference here in Canada.  Baby steps, but still a step forward for sure.

OUT WITH HARPER!  STOP BILL S-10!  Rallies tomorrow.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 12:44pm Permalink
Wayne Phillips (not verified)

In reply to by Gloria (not verified)

There you go, Gloria.

Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says his party will reintroduce legislation to "decriminalize" small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

On September 27 in Montreal, the first night of his cross-country Open Mike tour, the Opposition Leader told an audience of over 200 people that the Libs would bring back Martin Cauchon's decrim bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of under 15 grams of cannabis and replace them with fines.

Liberal Critic for Justice, Montreal MP Marlene Jennings, who joined Ignatieff at the event, added that she will push for Health Canada to streamline the process of granting medical marijuana permits.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 7:13pm Permalink
SamAK420 (not verified)

How many Californians are now going to vote yes to Prop. 19 as a direct result of Arnie's opinion? I bet the Governator knows.


The state saves money, and Arnie is immune from the (inevitable) backlash when 19 is passed.


I reckon the timing of this bill was intentional.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 9:42am Permalink

I was wrong in my prediction that the Governor would sign. Did I misjudge to temper my disappointment in case he did not? Wow. This is a great day in California and America. Congratulations and thanks to NORML and all the other organizations and activists working for marijuana reform.

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 9:55am Permalink
SmokeyJoe (not verified)

The Governator has spoken - are u listening Mr. Prez?

Fri, 10/01/2010 - 10:56am Permalink

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