California Marijuana Laws Now Nation's Most Liberal
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.