California eases penalty for marijuana possession

Los Angeles Times
Friday, October 1, 2010; 8:50 PM

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed a bill Thursday that will downgrade possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

The measure will keep most marijuana-related cases from going to court, and Schwarzenegger cited the state's budget woes for his decision.

"Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name," he wrote in a signing message, adding, "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."

When the law takes effect Jan. 1, the penalty for marijuana possession will remain a fine of up to $100 but no longer carry jail time.

A proposition that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state goes before California voters next month. Schwarzenegger said he opposes that measure, known as Proposition 19.

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