Schwarzenegger OK’s Downgrading Minor Pot Possession Penalty


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposes marijuana legalization for recreational use, signed a bill downgrading possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to an infraction, the Los Angeles Times reports. Backers say the change will keep marijuana cases from becoming court-clogging jury trials, even though the penalty remains a fine of up to $100, with no jail time. “Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name,” Schwarzenegger said. “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.”

Randy Thomasson, president of the family values group, said the law’s “virtual legalization of marijuana definitely sends the wrong message to teenagers and young adults.” Dale Gieringer of California NORML, which supports legalization, said Schwarzenegger “deserves credit for sparing the state’s taxpayers the cost of prosecuting minor pot offenders.”

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