Marijuana Possession Penalties Downgraded Starting January 2011

Sacramento, California – The penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will be downgraded from a misdemeanor to an infraction effective January 1, 2011. Violations will not go on the person’s records as a crime; however, offenders will still be required to pay a fine of $100 with no jail time.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the new measure, SB 1449 by Sen. Mark Leno, into law earlier this year in October. Supporters of the new legislation claim that the change will prevent marijuana-related cases from clogging court trials and wasting valuable resources by prosecuting minor offenses.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I am signing this measure because possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name. In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement and the courts can not afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.”

Opponents of the new law critique that the penalty relaxation sends the wrong message to society by eliminating the public stigma of the drug.

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