California: Marijuana Infraction Measure Now State Law

It’s official. The possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for non-medical purposes is no longer a criminal offense in the state of California.
As of January 1, 2011, Senate Bill 1449 is law. Signed by outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in October, SB 1449 amends the California Health and Safety Code so that the adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is reclassified from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction, punishable by no more than a $100 fine — no court appearance, no court costs, and no criminal record. The Governor’s decision to sign the bill was no doubt influenced by the 2,500+ NORML supporters who contacted Schwarzenegger’s office in the final days of the 2010 legislative session and urged his support for the law change.
The enactment of the law will spare tens of thousands of Californians from criminal prosecution, and will save the state tens of millions in court costs. California’s new law is similar to existing laws in Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and New York where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.
You can read more about California’s newly enacted law here.

63 thoughts

  1. God only knows that I wish Virginia would get it’s act together and follow suit, but here in big tobacco country I’m not hopeful… More likely is that I’m going to move to California in the next couple of years to be with people that are more like me!
    [Paul Armentano responds: There is legislation in Virginia to be reintroduced in 2011 to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession. It’s House Bill 1443. Please visit here:, join VA NORML, and become involved.]

  2. How will people with possession already charged to their records fare? Will previous violations be expunged? (they should be!!)

  3. I’m in cali.. and as much as i am happy its an infraction.. im sure we see a big savings in court causes and possibly police resources..
    it seems that if your still under 28.5 Grams.. let say you have 10 grams but individually wrap, or jus have high amount of money that are summed of 1..5’s and 10’s.. that the D.A and police would be motivated to just book and charge you for selling or trafficking ..
    i’m not saying this is going to happen statewide but cities or towns where cops having nothing to do..napa, benicia, other richer areas… just a thought.. even thou its an infraction.. it still allows racial cannabis profiling..
    please no trolling.. just a thought of how drug warriors might spin and react..

  4. I agree #4, Illinois next, please! Thank God Bill Brady didn’t win the election. With Quinn we have a chance, he’ll sign the bill if it gets to him.

  5. All we need to do now is get legislators to change the laws requiring prospective employees to drug test for Marijuana as an infringement of our civil rights. How many people can’t get a job right now because they will test positive? It’s a plant! We can fix the unemployment problems AND the economy in one swoop!
    This is my New Year wish!

  6. Law Enforcement scumbags are going to milk drug laws for every last drop!!! “Were just doin are jobs” Yeah you piggy scum!!! Your job is to ruin lives and you do it gleefully. Never give up people. As long as one person is sitting in prison for Marijuana you should never show any gratitude towards these evil pricks!!! Dont let your guard down people!!!

  7. Pennsylvania is hella bad, we need a change! It feels like we have no voice over in the east. Please NORML work on this at a nation wide scale. We need change and this generation wants it.
    [Paul Armentano responds: Please get involved with Philly NORML,, which last year successfully brought medical marijuana legislation before lawmakers and also worked toward the elimination of criminal records for minor marijuana offenders in Philadelphia.]

  8. See!!! there is justice!!!
    We also know what we’re faced with in 2012.
    There’s nothing as powerful as an idea that’s time has come. We have less than two years to educate those who voted no on Prop.19. Make them feel more comfortable about voting yes. It is an idea that’s time has come.
    Genesis the Faith – San Diego Colony

  9. Progress takes time folks!! This is at least a step in the right direction. I was never a big Arnold fan, but I gotta give him props for signing SB 1449, it makes me proud of this State.

  10. Yay.
    This legislation did not legalize cannabis possession. It didn’t even decriminalize it.
    It’s not enough. Think of the warfare going on south of the border. The stuff still has a street price that is way too high. The real test of the effectiveness of this kind of law is the street price of marijuana.
    We should not see legalization as the only front for normalizing marijuana consumption. If we can’t get legalization for commercial distribution, it would be enough to completely legalize simple possession. To confront distribution, raise huge fines, but no incarceration. Once simple possession becomes legal, even if there is no commercial distribution, street prices will drop like a rock. The dope dealers behind the “medical marijuana” clinics would not feel threatened, they would remain the sole legal source even though their prices would probably go down.
    But meanwhile, everyone else could be supplying themselves by growing it themselves. It would be real progress.

  11. Will the cops confiscate the cannabis they catch you with or it is just the $100 ticket and you’re on your way with your herb?

  12. yea! just moved to arizona… just a pit stop really until i can move to california. I will be smoking and growing legally in cali! i have years of medical records that will get me a MMJ card easily! i cant wait!

  13. This is such an amazing entry and I love to read more of it so that I will be able to look over and have it as an inspiration for further articles to write about when it comes to updates on legalizing marijuana stuffs and it’s pros and cons too. I do hope you will get to visit our official website and let us know what you think about it. Here is the link
    Thanks ahead and happy holidays to you and the rest
    of your family. 🙂

  14. #1 joan: i think it is $25 now. unless you are on university property, where it state law rules. hash bash is fun

  15. We should be using acts of disobedience to change the Law not work out a deal with those who have stolen these rights from us.
    It worked for the civil rights leaders don’t understand why we are not willing to use it now.
    I guess we will be the ones who makes deals with tyrants who steal our rights and corupted our constitution to control us like slaves. Happy New Year, enjoy your new slave status while some of us continue to fight for what belonged to us in the first place.

  16. well this is great i wanna move to California but its nothing but trouble there does anyone know where Ohio stands? like how about medical marijuana?
    [Paul Armentano responds: Adult marijuana possession of 100 grams or less (approx 3 ounces) is a minor misdemeanor in Ohio punishable by a $100 fine and no criminal record: NORML makes a state by state list of marijuana laws freely available to the public so everyone should be well aware of the laws in there state.]

  17. LOL @ New york being referenced. I live in nyc, and if you are caught with a dime bag, you are sent to jail for the night, or longer. Dont be fooled ny has NOT decrimilized cannibis. and it wont for a long time.
    [Editor’s note: New York state did in fact decriminalize the possession of cannabis under one ounce in the 1970s. The problem in New York City circa Guiliani is that the cops can rack up huge pay increases buy ‘arresting’ minor cannabis consumers, bring them to the precinct (which takes about 2 hours), and the defendant still gets a $100 fine.
    Last year, over 44,000 minor cannabis arrests happened in NYC, and experts who observe this behavior from the cops call it ‘Dollars for Collars’.]
    [Paul Armentano also responds: Also, note that the charge brought against most minor marijuana defenders in NYC is ‘possession of marijuana in public’, which is a different statute than simple possession, which was decriminalized statewide 30+ years ago.]

  18. 29. Stompedonmyrights
    You’re absolutely right. Arnold gave us a great going away present – but – we’re not satisiifed with crumbs. We cannot remember ever acquiescing to the prohibition of cannabis [our Holy Sacrament]. We didn’t decide to stand behind the “Reformation” to take second place. We demand that our Constitutional right be restored, and our Faith be protected from power by a few.
    Genesis the Faith – San Diego Colony

  19. Arnold Schwarzenegger just became my favorite politition. There is a light at the end of the tunnel?
    Now when is he going to run for President? I live in Maryland and they have tough laws here. I was busted with just paraphernalia We need to lobby the capital. How do you become a lobbyist?

  20. 35 Nancy Lee Garrett
    Just keep the faith, trust in your self, stand up for what you belive in, what else can you do? Vote!!!

  21. This is great news!!! I am happy to find that Arizona has just passed their own medical marijuana program, who would of thought? They even have a qualifying patient program from other states as well!!!
    I think the winds of change are blowing, if not slowly.

  22. First, living in New York State (northern NY, NOT NYC), I have to take issue with the article’s description of decriminalization as a simple fine – “no court appearance, no court costs, no criminal record”. Unless you plan to plead guilty, which you can do through the mail, you have to go to court. Also, my girlfriend receive a UPM (unlawful possession of marijuana) a few years back, and another friend received one a couple months ago; both had to pay $30 or $40 extra in court fees. Additionally, my friend lost her job because her recent UPM was published in the police log in her local paper. While there is no official criminal record associated with a UPM, like a traffic ticket, it does leave a record, and in the case of UPMs, employers can use this record to deny you a job if they wish. In fact, job applications at national chains here have an exemption for reporting UPMs – but only for residents of California, apparently because of the MMJ program. As post 14 states, I’m glad we have a fine only penalty for small amounts, but decriminalization is a far cry from legalization, or even tolerance. It’s still illegal, just without harsh criminal penalties. This being said, I have to address a couple other posters too.
    To # 32: you live in NYC. Unfortunately, they don’t play by the same rules as the rest of NY. Amounts that will get you arrested in NYC will be ignored in many other parts of the state, depending on the cop. I once was caught with a joint; the cop tore it up, threw it on the ground, and told me not to do it again. In NYC, I probably would have spent the night in jail. Additionally, the NYPD employs questionable tactics, as NORML has documented repeatedly.
    To # 22: your idea to allow simple possession without legal production and distribution will lead to the same problems as the Dutch model. In fact, California is already experiencing this. First, you need to realize that without legal production and distribution, prices will never fall. Medical cannabis in California routinely runs to $20/gram, and I understand that the same holds true in Amsterdam. This is because, while distribution is legal (or quasi-legal), production is still left out of the loop. Especially in California, where a black market still exists outside of MMJ, even people growing legally operate in a world of black market prices. If we want market forces to take effect and bring the price of cannabis down, we need full legalization.
    [Paul Armentano responds: ‘First, living in New York State (northern NY, NOT NYC), I have to take issue with the article’s description of decriminalization as a simple fine – “no court appearance, no court costs, no criminal record”.’ True enough, but that was the description of California’s new law, not New York’s decrim law, which, as I stated in the post: treats possession ‘as a civil, non-criminal offense.’ You can read a full review of New York State marijuana laws here: BTW, as a former NY state resident, I’m well aware of the tangential court costs involved with virtually any infraction in that state.]

  23. Please do not confuse decriminalization with legalization. Those enemies of freedom who defeated prop. 19 said when this infraction mease was passed that we got what we wanted and then declared why would we want prop. 19 if we have this infraction measure. The answer is that decrim is not legalization. If one does not legalize growing and sales but only allows people to posess an ounce one has no legal means to get cannabis. While the infraction measure is better than criminalization it is not legalization. What we need is full legalization for people 18 and over not just this rip off measure called decrim. Some of our enemies support decrim so that latter they can repeal it and still keep illegality intact. This would not be the case if we had full legalization for medical (achieved in California), religious and nonmedical uses. Do not confuse this infraction measure with legalization. Support real legalization. We need something better than this rip off of decrim. Whatever you do do not go around talking about making California a cannabis tourist destinationation. One cannot qualify for medical marijuana in a single day. You need to be ill and resident for the period of time it takes to get quaified. The dream of California as a cannabis tourist destination can only come when full legalization has been achieved. And don’t confuse an illegal street scene with a legal coffeeshop situation that does not exist in California.
    [Paul Armentano responds: Decriminalization also falls short because under such a policy marijuana is defined per se as contraband, which means that the state can bring full force against a citizen in order to forcibly seize the product from them. Such categorization inevitably leads to a hostile relationship between the citizenry and police.]

  24. Wade. Everyone knows that you don’t have to be “sick” to get a card. Its all about the money.

  25. From comment 40 :”[Paul Armentano responds: Decriminalization also falls short because under such a policy marijuana is defined per se as contraband, which means that the state can bring full force against a citizen in order to forcibly seize the product from them. Such categorization inevitably leads to a hostile relationship between the citizenry and police.]”
    Paul, I am not as excited about psychoactive part of cannabis as personal property at the consumer level. If distribution of the psychoactive part remains illegal, then complete legalization of simple possession of the psychoactive is worth giving up the right to keep it as personal property in the eyes of law enforcement. Most of the alarm generated by not viewing the psychoactive part as personal property in law is based on its value as a black market commodity. I think too many people imagine legalization accompanied by an unchanged street price. But the psychoactive parts of cannabis has no real natural market value of any significance whatsoever. Left completely alone by law — no taxes or anything – for commercial distribution, cannabis as a recreational drug would be cheap beyond belief. You could probably easily get it in the bulk department of your local natural food store for about the price of tea, probably less.
    Total legalization of possession but not distribution would only raise the prices a little bit beyond that. Always remember that whatever is happening to the Dutch happens only because the drug is so highly criminalized everywhere else.
    Think of tobacco. Anyone can grow the stuff and simple possession of anything you grow is completely legal. But if you try to sell it, that’s when you start to run into trouble with the authorities. This would easily work with cannabis with the exception that you couldn’t sell it even with a tax or license. (We exclude the dispensaries, they keep their license.) This would allow industrial production of cannabis for purposes of seed and fiber. We also assume that seeds being a non-psychoactive part of the plant would be free to sell legally. This would free up agricultural production of cannabis for seed and fiber since simple possession would be completely legal and distribution of seed and fiber could proceed without oversight.

  26. check your history people – pot has gone from legal to illegal a few times in US history(some as far back as George Washington, some as recent as WWII). More often than not when it was illegalized it was due to economics(ie someone was gonna loose a lot of $ if it stayed legal)

Leave a Reply