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Schwarzenegger says California can't afford tough marijuana punishment. Do you agree?


TalkBackLACiting budget cuts, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that would downgrade possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

"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," Schwarzenegger wrote in a signing message.

SB 1449 was written by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who said it would keep marijuana-related cases from going to court-clogging jury trials, although the penalty would remain a fine of up to $100 but no jail time.

The governor stressed that he does not support legalizing pot in California, The Times' Patrick McGreevy reports on PolitiCal, The Times' California politics blog.

What do you think of this change? Share your views below.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: Marijuana confiscated in a LAPD pot bust. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (128)

How come the fine is only $100? A red light can run you $500 around here and I believe an oz of dope costs society more (cancer, addiction, etc). This should be increased.

Note that I am in favor of legalization and (know someone who) smoked pot 20 years ago. As is stands now however, $100 is a lot less than it should be

I think this is a good law and way overdue. If the fine is only $100 max then I think a lot more people will just pay it and not fight it in court. It could actually turn out to be a money maker for the state.

Fred, there is no substantial evidence that pot is addictive, or that it causes cancer.
I would argue that far more people run red lights and put more people at risk than there are pot smokers who put others at risk. Even those who drive high, are probably fewer in number than the people who disregard yellow and red lights.

And if any fine should be increased, it should be the talking on the phone while driving fines --and fines for texting too.

It's an acknowledgement of something that has been true for a long time: we cannot jail all the pot smokers. Think about this: in a recent poll, 38 percent of californians had smoked pot at some point in their lives. Can we have 62 percent of the population paying to keep the other 38 percent behind bars? Uh, no. Now, those who *currently* smoke are more than a few percent of the population. Can we jail 'em all? No. Simple as that.

If you've been wondering why 30 years of trying to jail all the potsmokers hasn't even begun to reduce their numbers, now you know. And you now know that it'll never, ever be possible to do.

At some point you realize that debating the danger of pot is POINTLESS. This debate is about whether we should continue our current, thoroughly debunked strategy. The question right now is, basically, do we want to keep throwing money into this giant hole in the ground?

So bravo, Arnold, for finally admitting not only that our current strategy doesn't have anything to show for a massive 30 year investment, and it never will.

Now maybe we can approach this from another angle?

First of all they are talking about weed not some crazy drug. they prescribe marijuana to cancer patients. it is not addictive. and running a red light can lead to death or serious injury. and if you are in favor of legalization then you shouldn't think it should be a higher fine. there shouldn't be one.

The cartels in Mexico are anticipating a busy year ahead, thanks Arnie!

Fred, Fred, Fred. Your belief is erroneous. Prohibition is what really costs our society. Running red lights kills people; MJ does not. Please cite studies that show that MJ is linked to cancer and addiction rates that cost society.

Do you want cannabis available in regulated stores or schools where it is currently abundant?

The choice is yours America.

After 70 years of failed prohibition the 'problem' is not about to
go away with the next big bust.

This doesn't go far enough.

For the record, I have NEVER tried marihuana/cannabis or other substances considered illegal drugs, and I regard them as vile and foul-smelling.

Legalize (note: NOT "de-criminalize") marihuana, while making it a crime to operate a motor vehicle under its influence (this may already be illegal in California, as I live in Maryland, I don't know most of the specifics of the California Vehicle Code).

Allow sales distribution of the stuff in the same way that alcohol and tobacco products are sold tolday.

Make sure it is taxed at the state and federal (and maybe county and municipal levels, too).


Your comment about 'addiction' and 'cancer' is rather odd. Neither of these things are official associated with or connected to marijuana, unless you have some new research info that I am not aware of.

And even if that were true, how would that correlate with the fee structure for a violation? Does the government base the fine structure on how much harm you are doing yourself? I think not. Both addiction and cancer are directly related to cigarettes, and they are perfectly legal. Based on your logic, cigarettes should be outlawed and smokers should be heavily fined if caught using tobacco. You could say the same for alcohol. Just switch cancer with liver disease.

It's probably the most pragmatic approach to this issue I have seen in CA, living my entire life here. He is correct in stating that public intoxication needs not be encouraged, and correct in stating that prosecuting people for smoking the plant is not good for the state. I agree with his stance that it should not be 100% legal, but should also not make you a criminal for using it. Keeping it away from children, and not smoking in public, are good, common-sense ideas, and there is nothing radical about this. The courts spend money in terms of Judge's salaries, public defendants, and more, all for a measly $100, and in the end, the law makes a casual pot smoker into a convicted criminal with a misdemeanor record. If you even look at the word 'misdemeanor', it is flawed to associate that with a pot smoker. Mis-demeanor plainly means 'unwanted behavior', or 'mistaken behavior'. As potheads are mostly harmless, and do not end up robbing houses for a fix, or being incredibly annoying (like meth-heads), the name itself does not fit with the crime. I did not vote for Arnold, but this policy is one of the smartest and most well thought out that I have seen him endorse, in his entire governorship. I agree with him that across the board legalization is probably a bad idea, because it will encourage people who have never used the drug before, to use it without fear of consequence, and I don't know if you've ever seen someone get high for the first time, but it can turn out to be quite a spectacle.

Though I'm not a pot smoker, legalize it, for cryin' out loud. How many people under the influence of marijuana ruin a family function with obnoxious or inappropriate behavior, plow their car into a crowd of innocent people, act like jerks at a sporting event, or beat their girlfriends/wives/domestic partners senseless? Not many. Booze is legal, make marijuana legal also.

Why don't we try harsher penalties instead of loosening them? Marijuana is a drug that leads to the use of worse drugs. If we have harsher penalties, usage will diminish.

I don't use the stuff, but I think the penalty and law enforcement efforts are too much. And marijuana is not the only such example. As long as you don't do it in my face I don't care if you smoke tobacco or marijuana, walk around naked, pay somebody for a happy ending, or eat fatty foods. Government is too much in our faces over issues which should be left to personal choice. Besides, legislatures are rarely smarter than the average wino living on the street so why should they be making these choices for us?

unless, Edward, Prop 19 passes, allowing upstanding law-abiding citizens to sell pot instead.

Fred, put down the crack pipe and try some weed...you probably "knew someone" with half a brain once too...

fred, there is no cancer and no addiction for pot, for starters, and as someone who has both been near someone holding a joint and also been hit by someone running a red light, i can tell you in no uncertain terms that only one of those experiences came within an inch of killing me. you guess which.

It makes absolutely no sense to have a picture showing a cops trailing a van full of Mexican kilo bricks in an article about decriminalizing possession of an ounce. The title is pretty dumb too, it implies that Schwarzenegger is "weaseling" out of enforcing laws against large-scale distribution.

I understand that the LA Times is perpetually committed to slandering marijuana and Prop 19, but this struck me as pretty incredible.

I'm a cop. When he says $100, that might equal $300, 400 or more to the person cited. Cell phone I believe is $25, yet the last person I had in LA court was $142. I'm all for this. I wonder what happens to the pot? Does it still have to get booked as evidence? If so, that still leaves the burden of writing a report and creating a report number (something that doesn't happen with infractions or traffic tickets). Those of you complaining about Arnold, perhaps you should focus your attention on that liberal Sen. Mark Leno who authored the bill. Take a look at his work in the Senate this session authoring a host of liberal bills: SB 54 - recognize out-of-state same sex marriages, SB 572 - May 22 declared Harvey Milk Day, SB 678 - Community Corrections Performance Incentives Fund, SB 718 - CalWORKs and the Food Stamp Program, SB 906 - Same Sex Civil Marriage, SB 1347 - Restricting police ability to use Taser.

Edward if california legalizes marijuana we will have local growers who will flood the market and shut down all the frivolous criminal organizations trying to make a quick buck.
its not going to be worthwhile. They will move their operation to a state that has strict laws against marijuana because that will mean increased prices for customers(its harder to get) open your narrow conservative backwards mind.

It's a good idea.
Removing the profit from Mexican Drug Cartels is a better one.

Keep feeding BIG Tobacco, BIG Pharmaceutical, and Big Alcohol at the expense of reason. Only the lobbyists, the lawyers and those above are the only ones to lose if Prop 19 passes. I agree with The Governator, but still it is not enough. VOTE YES on Prop 19. Take control away from the lobbyists, lawyers, and special interest groups. Or keep throwing the pot heads in jail while the tweakers, junkies, drunks, child molesters and coke dealers roam around the borders of our public schools. Seems to me that throwing away public funds on the prohibition of pot is a terrible waste when the real villains are laughing all the way to the bank.

Thanks Arnold for putting the state's priorities in place.

We have a heroin and crystal meth epidemic in this state, so Edward that is where the Mexican cartels make their money. It is time to put that crisis in the front of the line. the police have limited resources, so they say, so it is time to take the emphasis off of pot and clean up this other crap.

Interesting that Gov. Schwarzenegger is against legalization yet further decriminalizes cannabis. I'm afraid this is simply a pathetic last-ditch effort to undermine Prop.19.

For all Prop.19's possible flaws, legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use is by far the lesser of the two evils between legalization and criminalization. Once Prop.19 is passed the wrinkles can be ironed out in an atmosphere of legality.

I'm a Canadian. I'm not a cannabis user, but I am a cannabis supporter and have contributed in any way I could to California's (and Canada's) legalization campaign.

Go California! Go Proposition 19!

"Why don't we try harsher penalties instead of loosening them? Marijuana is a drug that leads to the use of worse drugs. If we have harsher penalties, usage will diminish."

Ron, oh Ron! You must be new to our fair state, so let us inform youz that we have TRIED harsher penalities, God knows we tried! But still...some of our citizens are just...well...a bit reluctant to back away from the hateful stuff.

How do public hangings grab you, dude?

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