State Bill Would Knock Possession of Less Than an Ounce of Marijuana to an Infraction

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While all eyes, red and otherwise, are on November's vote on marijuana legalization in California, the state Senate narrowly voted this week to reclassify possession of less than an ounce of weed as an infraction with a penalty of $100 rather than its current status as a misdemeanor with the same fine.

Since possession of a less than an ounce is not punishable by jail time, "That's an infraction, by definition," according to Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the author of SB 1449.

"All this bill does is call it what it is--an infraction," he tells the Sacramento Bee. "It doesn't change the penalties."


Misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests have increased, reaching 61,388 in 2008, adds Leno, who notes misdemeanor defendants can request a jury trial, even if the maximum penalty that can be imposed is a $100 fine.

"Our courts are clogged," Leno reportedly said, and it's a "waste of time" and resources to try someone for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

He's got the support of the California Judicial Council and the California District Attorneys Association--and the scorn of the California Narcotics Association and California Police Chiefs Association (who no doubt want to maintain high misdemeanor arrest stats).

But the folks Leno really needs on his side if his bill is to become law are members of the Assembly, which still must pass it, and the guy in the photo. Da Gov must sign it--with his joint pinching hand, of course.
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