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

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 thoughts

  1. The LEO’s wouldnt have to do anything more than sit around the donut shop writing citations to stoners.

    What a waste of resources. Why aren’t these LEO’s doing something USEFUL for society instead of harassing the folks that pay their wages..??…???

    This is beyond absurd, vote to remove all laws pertaining to the cannabis plant.

  2. I absolutely don’t believe that marijuana possession should be illegal at at all – not even an infraction! That said I wish to the Gods that Virginia’s leaders would get on board and help stop the insane drug war. Here, the penalties continue to be extremely stiff and with no upcoming bills to vote on. I recently joined VA NORML. Maybe I can help make a difference here. I’m going to try! Part of the problem may be that tobacco is really really big here and they know that marijuana is not addictive. They don’t want the competition. On the other hand, even though it is not addictive, it is still highly desired by a huge number of people. You’d think maybe that would be enough to get that industry on board… One thing that scares me though is that if the tobacco industry starts producing it in mass, they’ll probably add a lot of dangerous extras to it before it makes it’s way to market… It would be really cool if they marketed an ‘au natural’ brand which has no additives of any kind!

  3. This needs to happen. I was ticketed for possession in 2006 in CA. I completed the court ordered diversion program, and I still have a criminal record. (I really didnt have a choice about doing the program, the judge threated to take away my license for a year if I did not complete it.) Now I live in Oregon and there is always a small blip on my record (according to my land lords).

    The whole experience caused me to mistrust the government and the police.

    End this nonsense!

  4. They’re only using this to shut people up about Legalization I think. Anyone else think the same?

  5. the politicos continue to be quite pathetic in their half-arsed measures.

    powerful forces that don’t play by the rules have much to lose.


    we the people sense that legalization is coming sooner rather than later. meanwhile good quality cannabis gets easier to find. yay

    let’s help in whatever way we can.


  6. It’s something, anyway.

    Next step:

    Crunch the numbers comparing how much more could be raked into the public coffers via taxes on cannabis as compared to the amount from people who just happen to get busted and have to pay the infraction fine, and blabbing and blurbs all over the place about it.

    After November, it’s either KaChing from this cash cow or put some more misery on the taxpayers to pay for existing infrastructure and civilization. I sure as hell don’t want my taxes raised when they could be getting revenue from cannabis. In fact, I’d like a tax cut, however meager it may be.

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!”

  14. 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”:)

  15. 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.

  16. To all the commenters on this page: If you spent as much time commenting on mainstream media sites as you do on pro-pot pages like this, it would already be legalized. Make your voices heard, preach to somebody other than the choir

  17. To “Of Course”: You are right that we need to stop “preaching to the choir” here and carry our determination to the national sites. This message is for Lucas, too, whose bad experience made him paranoid. I want you to notice that I use my real name in my comments. You will find my name all over the internet, doing exactly what “Of Course” suggests. My last hits were on the Fox News site, which has lately run pieces on legalization. I use my name because, at 61, I have been run through the legal wringer so many times that I don’t care anymore. If they want to investigate me for what I say, they know where I am. If I go to jail, my VA disability checks will pile up in my bank and then I’ll be able to get REAL stoned when I get out. I really have nothing to hide, so I hide nothing (except my roaches). They can’t say anything worse about me than has already been said in the newspapers when I got busted. Those people that matter don’t care, and those who care don’t matter.

  18. BTW: Lucas, I am also a convicted felon over drugs. I live in Florida, which has some of the harshest laws in the country. Nevertheless, I asked for and got my rights restored. I am not a violent person, even though I was (unfortunately) trained to kill. So I can vote for legalization, but I just can’t own a gun. But hell, my guitar and my bong are more powerful than a gun, anyway. As is my poison pen, which I use to voice my opinions all over the internet. Do the same. You’ll feel better.

  19. your right #7 don’t be fooled by this bullshit legalize or nothing tell your employer that they just gave you a ticket and join the unemployed…

  20. And to Jordan Evans: This is my fourth comment here, and if you read the other three, you know that I hate the state of affairs now. Bur you’re right… I DON’T want to see pot just decriminalized. Decriminalization, like I said in my first comment, will not lower pot prices, won’t eliminate the black market, and the cartels will continue to profit. Yes, you won’t get as caught up in the legal system, and that’s fine for you, but you must be aware of how many marijuana opponents are closely watching what’s happening. This is why this Medical Marijuana thing won’t work. If the black market still exists, violence will continue at the clinics. LA is already shutting them down. We can’t convince those opposing us if we can’t convince them that legalization, decriminalization or MM clinics are a good thing. If things don’t change radically with the MM situations now springing up, we may find ourselves blowing the whole thing. We all really need to think about what we really want, rather than settling for patchwork “fixes” or the bones the gov’t tosses to appease us and shut us up. If we weren’t so damned scared of getting a ticket or going to jail, maybe more of us would stand on soapboxes. With SO many Americans smoking pot, if we came out of the closet on this, we might find ourselves the single largest voter group in the country. There is some safety in numbers. The enemy knows this, and scares us by picking us off one by one.

  21. It’s about time!!! Hopefully it will set the precedent for this country and some of its idiot politicians who allow bills like HR 2943 to sit on some subcommittees’ desk until it expires.

  22. Here is what prohibitionists are most afraid of, the truth of what should happen beginning immediately:

    1. Re-legalize cannabis for adults immediately.
    2. Pay full drug “war” reparations.
    3. Bring drug “war” criminals to justice for their crimes against humanity violating God’s will for people to live in freedom with liberty as acknowledged and cited in the Constitution of the United States.

    Prohibitionists deserve to rot in hell, in my opinion.

  23. SeanT Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    dude i will post what ever i see fit, it was approved so NORML thinks its fine……im not American so dooooo forgive my lack of knowledge on American politics, also go do a bowl and lighten up/leave me alone

  24. * 5 important Rules Need to be established: IMO

    1) An employer can reserved to right to test their employee’s if they are under the influence. Especially directly after legalization. Just like you can’t come to work drunk.

    2) An age limit must be established. I’m all for a minimum of 30 years of age.

    3) Certain jobs such as teacher, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other jobs of significant responsibility must have specific outlines for usage.

    4) Use of pot while enlisted in the armed forces should be restricted with exception to “leave”.

    5) Sales to any person less than 30 years of age is a felony 1rst offense.

    Obviously if pot is ever legalized those that use openly will be under the microscope as well as the entire smoking community. Unfortunately, those same “interesting” folk that gravitate toward the TV reporters during rallies will without a doubt give American an eyeful. So it is sooooo very imprtant we act appropriately when legalization occurs.

    * Why oh why do I feel that the smoking culture is going to be its own worst enemy ????????????????

  25. awh…. only a small fine and being harrassed by police for using a god given flower….how kind the nobles are to the surfs in the land of the free

  26. Wow! I thought that people would object to my proposal to treat marijuana the same as alcohol because of how more restrictive it is than as it is now with the black market. I guess that Mike Stroup and True American proved me wrong. If you want to make the legal age 30 years old, you might want to do that for alcohol, too. My generation coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30”. This would put a whole new spin on that!
    In Today’s New York Times (Sunday, June 27) is a large article titled, “When Capitalism Meets Cannabis”. I have never been able to visit a Medical Marijuana clinic because I’m in Florida. If this article is right about MM clinics charging up to $16 per gram, it means that patients are paying $483 per ounce! This is nuts! If these kind of prices go along with full legalization, then maybe we should forget the whole thing.


    BECAUSE, as I stated before, none of our efforts will last… that is, legalization or even decriminalization WILL be repealed and become illegal again if these efforts of ours do not end the black market and the violence that goes with it. For a while I couldn’t really understand why clinics were being attacked, unless it was the cartels trying to get them closed. And in LA, it appears to be working. Now I understand… for God’s sake, the clinics are charging up to twice the black market price! With these prices, the black market won’t go away. I am a heavy proponent of legalization, but I’ll keep doing the illegal thing if I can get my pot for half the price from my street dealer than that from the legal sources.

  27. Nothing really happens here anyways if your caught with possession this includes even growing ( & lots of it ) weed . This is especially true if you live in Humboldt County where practically every 3rd house is a ” grow house ” . I’ve even felt sorry for some of the neighbors since the stench of weed gets really strong before harvest & I’d certainly not one to live next to one of these grow houses at that time . If it wasn’t for pot i the Emerald Triangle ( Counties ) will have to fold up its doors , dry up and die .That’s how people make a living here .

  28. Maybe making this cannabis legal will calm these nutjobs down in LA county by nutjobs these crackheads murderers gang members, possibly the dirtiest place I have ever seen in the United States and I really think MJ will save things……………HAHAHAHAHA JK

  29. this is a good step in the right direction!! hopefully it works out on the west coast and the trend makes its way to VT!!

  30. Sad thing is, even under this new law, people are still going to be harassed by law enforcement even if it is just a $100 fine. A ticket is a ticket, and quotas will have to be met for said tickets.

    As good as this law seems on paper, it’s wording and technicalities still provide ‘law enforcement’ the ability to stop you, search you, probably confiscate anything found and THEN fine you. If you’re in a car, this would probably be 30-45 minutes sitting on the curb while a cop and his cronies tear your interior apart. To justify this they’ll just say they were looking for drugs BESIDES marijuana.

    Until there are 0 existing prohibition laws against marijuana (or any other drug for that matter), there will still be cause for certain police to violate your civil liberties.

    Knowing your INALIENABLE RIGHTS and what they mean is the best way to keep yourself from being the victim of the overzealous war on drugs aka war on the American public.

  31. @True American.

    I’m all about putting an age limit, however, it will have to stay in accordance with the current age laws when it comes to mind altering substances such at tobacco and alcohol.

    If they are going to restrict the use of marijuana in the workplace, if anything they should also restrict alcohol usage and force employees to take random alcohol screenings as well as drug screenings. It’s only fair since alcohol has been proven to cause more long lasting detrimental effects and mental instabilities than marijuana other than addiction.
    Please see:

    If our military is going to punish enlisted members/officers because they use marijuana, they should also punish military men & women for using alcohol and abusing prescription drugs. It’s only fair, and again, alcohol and prescription drugs have been proven to cause more long lasting detrimental effects and mental instabilities than marijuana other than addiction.

    Sales to anyone underage should be put in the same category of fines as selling alcohol/tobacco to underage, with tiered penalties according to the number of offenses.

    Of course, stores that sell marijuana will be licensed by the state as with every other store that sells alcohol/tobbacco and even FOOD. If they aren’t licensed, fine them like anything else with tiered penalties according to the number of offenses.

    Is the charge for selling alcohol/cigarettes to underage people a felony currently? No? Why would we make underage sale of marijuana a felony? Sounds very hypocritical to me.

  32. haha i’ve been smoking for a few years. dont get ur hopes up people they are not legalizing shit, i wish they would but lets be real here, i am almost certain it wont be legal in our lifetime.

  33. legalizing cannabis is the most important DOABLE constitutional issue in the country today.

    the right to pursue one’s hippieness is infrigginalienable.

    ifn ya know wot ….. sup

  34. @TrueAmerican

    30 years old? You have got to be kidding me! I can go die for my country at age 18 but cant light a bowl? F that I say.

    Felony offense….. pff

  35. Decrim is ridiculous. The fact that our leaders Decrim instead of just legalizing is really an indication that they dont care about solving any of the problems.

    they WANT to keep the drug war going. They WANT drug lords and drug violence. They WANT gangs and kidnappings. They want it so they can continue to tax us.


    “There is no answer for The System, as it stands, but inertia. Inevitable collapse and decay. What will replace it? Who knows. But Valentine is gracefully impartial in his treatment of the flawed human beings who comprise each sub-system within The System. There are a few truly evil characters along the lines of George H. W. Bush, Nixon and other miscreants, and there are a few straight-arrows, but the mass of agents, operatives, officials, bureaucrats etc. are products of the particular sub-systems — DEA, FBI, CIA — they happen to be working for. Though the CIA is nefarious above and beyond the call of duty in its recruitment of sadists and murderers, most agencies are comprised of people who think they are doing “the right thing,” and dedicate and risk their lives to “doing the right thing,” however wrong it may be when viewed “objectively” outside The System.”

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