Governor signs ‘infraction’ bill
Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Created: 10/01/2010 05:13:08 PM PDT
A speeding ticket. Possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.
It’s all the same, according to a bill signed late Thursday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that reduces possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction, with a maximum punishment of a $100 fine.
“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,” Schwarzenegger said after signing Senate Bill 1449.
As a misdemeanor, possession of up to an ounce of pot was still punishable by a $100 fine only and no jail time. But offenders also faced arrest, a possible court appearance and a criminal record.
Local marijuana advocates applauded the bill.
“That’s a step in the right direction, even if it’s for the wrong reasons,” said Clare Lundy, director of Calm Collective, a mobile medical marijuana dispensary in Rancho Cucamonga.
After signing the bill, Schwarzenegger said he opposed decriminalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana.
He also voiced opposition to Proposition 19 on the November ballot, calling it a “deeply flawed measure” that will adversely impact California’s businesses without bringing in the tax revenues promised by its supporters.
Proposition 19 would more or less make the new law irrelevant by legalizing possession of up to an ounce for personal use for adults 21 and older.
Schwarzenegger said he supported S.B. 1449 because it would save the state courts money.
The bill by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was supported by the Judicial Council of California – the policymaking body of the court system – and by the California District Attorneys Association.
California’s major police associations opposed the legislation.
Fontana Police Chief Rodney Jones opposed the bill, saying marijuana is harmful.
“I think philosophically . . . the reason why I oppose this bill is we can’t keep decriminalizing this type of behavior,” Jones said.
Paul Chabot, founder of the Coalition for a Drug Free California, called the governor’s action a “disturbing and disappointing” move that will lead to more marijuana use and abuse.
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