Smoke a joint, get a ticket. That's the deal in California now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law making possession of an ounce or less of pot an infraction.
SB 1449 was intended to make holding cannabis a $100 ticket instead of an offense that would send you to court and possibly jail. What that means politically is that Arnold is making it harder for you to vote for Prop. 19, the November ballot initiative that would fully legalize the same.
Why legalize it when it practically is anyway?
Still, the pro-pot lobby was happy.
The Drug Policy Alliance notes that weed has gone from felony to misdemeanor (in 1975, when everybody had a joint in their jeans) to an infraction.
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"Sacramento finished what it started 35 years ago - lowering the penalties for personal marijuana possession to those of a traffic ticket," says Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the alliance. "The voters, however, are already poised to take the next step, adopting Prop. 19 to eliminate all penalties for personal possession and begin to bring this state's unregulated $14 billion underground marijuana market under the rule of law once and for all."
The DPA opines that the old way, when pot was a misdemeanor, "wasted millions of dollars of court resources providing jury trials accorded to misdemeanor defendants."
It also notes that the law was used to put African Americans in handcuffs at a much higher rate than whites -- black people are three times as likely to be "arrested for personal marijuana possession even though young blacks consume marijuana at lower levels than young whites."
No longer. At least on paper. Arnold really is numero uno. We can all toke a little easier now.