On Monday, members of the California Assembly approved Senate Bill 1449, which reduces adult marijuana possession offenses in California from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction, by a vote of 43 to 33.
The vote split largely along party lines, with Democrats voting 40 to 8 in favor of more lenient penalties and Republicans voting 2 to 23 against. Senate lawmakers had previously approved the measure in June by a vote of 21 to 13.
The marijuana infraction bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his approval.
Under present law, minor marijuana possession for non-medical purposes is classified as a criminal misdemeanor. While the offense is not punishable by jail time, defendants charged under the law must appear in court, pay court costs, and attend a court-ordered diversion program. Offenders who refuse to attend the program may retain a criminal record for up to two years.
Senate Bill 1449 amends the California Health and Safety Code so that the adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is classified as a noncriminal infraction, punishable by no more than a $100 fine — no court appearance, no court costs, and no criminal record.
Passage of bill would save the state millions of dollars in court costs by keeping minor pot offenders out of court. The number of misdemeanor pot arrests has surged in recent years, reaching 61,388 in 2008, the highest level since the state partially decriminalized pot possession in 1976.
Adults who consume marijuana responsibly are not part of the crime problem, and the state should stop treating them like criminals
Governor Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has vetoed several different marijuana law reform bills in the past. Therefore, if you live in California, it is vital that you please e-mail or call Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and urge him to sign SB 1449 into law. For your convenience, a pre-written letter will be e-mailed to the Governor when you visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here.