California Marijuana Laws Now Nation's Most Liberal

Categories: Marijuana
Your governor, in action
After Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger affixed his signature on a Sen. Mark Leno-authored bill yesterday, California's marijuana policy became the nation's most progressive, pot activists tell SF Weekly.

While existing law calls for anyone busted with an ounce or less of pot to be tried for a misdemeanor and fined $100, Leno's SB 1449 changes that to an "infraction." As a result, there's no longer any need for a trial, and there will be no criminal record incurred. "You get a ticket and there's a $100 fine," Said Mike Meno, the spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It's almost like a parking citation." In San Francisco, it might even be cheaper.

California's forthcoming policy is essentially identical to a two-year-old law enacted in Massachusetts. In Meno's estimation, these states are in the forefront when dealing with marijuana possession.

The least progressive? Take a guess. Having trouble? Okay, Ratso Rizzo wanted to go there with Joe Buck.

That's right -- it's Florida. If Rizzo and Buck were caught with an ounce of reefer, they could spend up to five years in prison and shell out a $5,000 fine. The second- and third-harshest states are Montana and Arkansas. See the full list here

Schwarzenegger -- famously caught smoking a joint while eating an enormous piece of cake in the film Pumping Iron -- offered the following rationale for signing the bill:

Notwithstanding my opposition to Proposition 19, however, I am signing this measure because possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name. The only difference is that because it is a misdemeanor, a criminal defendant is entitled to a jury trial and a defense attorney.

In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket. 

READ MORE: California Bill Would Keep Marijuana Growers Out Of Prison

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