NORML.ORG – California: Marijuana Infraction Measure Becomes Law

Sacramento, CA: Legislation that reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction took effect this week in California.

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 for nonmedical purposes 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 new law took effect on January 1, 2011. It 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.

"This a common sense, fiscally responsible proposal that will reprioritize California’s criminal justice resources without altering public safety," NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. "The enactment of this law will save the state millions of dollars in judicial and prosecutorial costs by keeping minor marijuana offenders out of court. The number of misdemeanor pot arrests had surged in recent years, reaching 61,388 in 2008. Adults who consume marijuana responsibly are not part of the crime problem, and the state should stop treating them like criminals. Californians recognize that the war on marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and this new law acknowledges that reality."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.

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