California: In The Shadow Of Legalization, Lawmakers Moving Forward With Decriminalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 25, 2010

    While most Californians and the media in recent months have understandably remained focused on The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 — which seeks to eliminate criminal penalties for the adult personal possession and cultivation of marijuana — state lawmakers in Sacramento have quietly been moving forward on a cannabis liberalization bill of their own.

    Senate Bill 1449, which seeks to reduce personal, non-medical marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction, is now only one vote away from heading to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk.

    On Wednesday, members of the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety voted 4 to 1 to send the measure to the Assembly floor. (Senate lawmakers had previously voted 21 to 13 in favor of the bill.) Once the full Assembly acts, the measure will go before the Governor for his signature.

    Under current law, marijuana possession has a unique status in California law as the only misdemeanor that is not punishable by arrest or jail time. However, offenders must still appear in court, pay a fine ($100), and pay court costs (approximately $200). In addition, defendants who wish to avoid a criminal record must attend a court-ordered diversion program. Defendants who do not attend such a program are saddled with a criminal record for at least two years following their conviction.

    By making possession an infraction, Senate Bill 1449 would spare possession offenders time in court or the risk of a criminal record. Instead, they would simply pay a fine.

    More information about S.B. 1449 is available from California NORML, and from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    78 responses to “California: In The Shadow Of Legalization, Lawmakers Moving Forward With Decriminalization”

    1. Anonymous says:

      any update on Congress’s 100 gram bill? the one sponsored by ron paul and barney frank?

    2. E says:

      This is a small offering. Earlier in this thread it was suggested that maybe this a measure to sidetrack people from the legalization issue. I would agree. Removing some of the penalties doesn’t address the issue that no one should be getting arrested for using a plant. I’ll join everyone in saying that we need total and complete legalization. Regulate, and tax it! Peace!

    3. SeanT says:

      Hey adhd:

      You shouldn’t post something unless you really know what you are talking about. Whether Arnold signs that thing or not, his term limits are up and he will not be able to run for re-election anyway. Just so you know.

    4. Buc says:

      Hmm, the cynical side of me is always in effect when I read positive news coming from those that are typically pro-drug war.

      In this case, part of me is thinking that the timing of this will benefit the group against legalization more than the Tax Cannabis people in California this year.

      Decriminalization is great and I support it to the extent that it is a better option than we have now, but isn’t ideal. However, with just months until the vote, I’m wondering if the anti-bud people will run ads saying, ‘See, we support reform, just not radical, extremist reform’.

      Ah well, probably just paranoia.

    5. rage says:

      I agree with the third poster. Fuck you, your regulation, and your fines of a 100% non-toxic beneficial harmless plant that grows everywhere. Fuck you. We aren’t children.

    6. Tennessee Activist says:

      The governor won’t be re-elected any way, so his signature of approval on Senate Bill 1449 won’t affect him in any way, unless he’s taking in bribe money.

    7. James Custer McCarthy says:

      I’ve smoked pot since 1967, and have been a musician for 47 years. In 1968, I was arrested and jailed for simple possession of a small amount of pot. I’ll never forget what one of the narks, who I knew, told me: “Mac,” he said, “Why don’t you just wait a couple of years? You know they’ll legalize it soon.” That was in 1968. Afterward, even with college training, I couldn’t get a job, although I lived in liberal Connecticut. I was told that if I got an Honorable Discharge, it would offset my criminal record. But even the Army didn’t want me, because of their own drug problems. Vietnam was raging then, and it was a temptation to forget it and go home. My friends were burning their draft cards and running off to Canada. But I wouldn’t. I finally got my HD, but I had to risk my life just to get a job. But having said all that, I must say that in my opinion, this law of CA’s is wrong-headed. In fact, I think that of all medical marijuana. Why? Because the only thing that will give the marijuana opponents pause is if we can show that all this is a good thing. The only thing that will show them that is if the black market in marijuana is ended and the violence with it. And the only thing that will do that is full legalization, with taxation, retail sales of packaged pot (like those in Vietnam were able to get), and regulation just like alcohol. We already have the machinery in place, for alcohol. Cigarettes contain a little over an ounce of tobacco per pack, and each pack costs about a dollar to make. Pot is not even processed as much as cigarettes, so should cost the same or less to make. We now spend upwards of $300 per ounce for good weed, so I can’t see how anyone could object to buying a pack of reefers for $50 at a liquor store or bar. Since about $45 of that goes to the gov’t in taxes, I can see it now: the black market in pot abolished (thereby hurting the cartels badly) and headlines that say “Pot Smokers Save American Economy!”

    8. Lucas says:

      I’m from Illinois, at 18 I served 1 1/2 yrs for felony poss/dist. of marijuana. Now, I’m scared to blow my nose the wrong way. I’ve been denied student loans/grants, certain jobs, even denied by the Army because of the record that haunts me even 10 yrs later. If they at least decriminalize my freedom of choice I’m, “Going to California”:)

    9. […] the radar ox Tax Cannabis CA 2010, California lawmakers are close to sending a bill to the Governor’s desk decriminalizing mariju…. Senate Bill 1449, which seeks to reduce personal, non-medical marijuana possession penalties from […]

    10. Jordan Evans says:

      This is a fallback incase the bill to legalize falls through in November would you rather have it stay illegal if the bill doesnt pass or have it be decriminalized so you wont get arrested.

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