California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate bill 1449 Thursday, which reduces adult marijuana possession charges from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. This reduces the offense of possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a simple infraction, like a traffic ticket. The penalty however has not changed — both the misdemeanor and offense carry a $100 fine.
So, what is the difference then?
Currently, small-time pot possession is semi-decrminalized, meaning there is no jail time and a maximum of a $100 fine. But, since possession is considered a misdemeanor, those caught with pot are technically arrested and served a notice to appear in court. More than 60,000 Californians last year went through this, each having to appear in court, costing the state a lot of money.
Under the bill that the governor signed today, pot possession will be treated like a traffic ticket, with a maximum $100 fine and no arrest or criminal record.
The governor said that while he opposes decriminalization for personal use, the state simply cannot afford to spend as much money and resources as they currently do for people caught with marijuana.
The law goes into effect Jan. 1. It will not affect the misdemeanor status of smoking in public or in the presence of minors.
Do you think pot possession should be punished more harshly than a traffic ticket?