Saturday, October 2, 2010

Preemptive Move? Reclassifying Possession as an Infraction

Yesterday, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senator Mark Leno's Senate Bill 1449, which reclassifies possession of less than one ounce of marijuana as an infraction.

Existing law provides that, except as authorized by law, every person who possesses not more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, other than concentrated cannabis, is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100. This same penalty is imposed for the crime of possessing not more than 28.5 grams of marijuana while driving on a highway or on lands, as specified.

Existing law provides with respect to these offenses that under specified conditions (1) the court shall divert and refer the defendant for education, treatment, or rehabilitation, as specified, and (2) an arrested person who gives satisfactory evidence of identity and a written promise to appear in court shall not be subjected to booking.

This bill instead provide [sic] that any person who commits any of the above offenses is instead guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $100. This bill would eliminate the above-described provisions relating to booking and to diversion and referral for education, treatment, or rehabilitation.

A preemptive move against Prop 19? The "civil unions" of marijuana, which are "almost like legalization, but not exactly"? Unclear. It is important to keep in mind, though, that prior to this amendment of the Penal Code, marijuana possession of less than an ounce was a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, a fact that many Californians were not aware of. It is therefore unlikely that this measure will have any impact, positive or negative, on usage patterns and rates.

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