Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has recently signed a bill that will reduce the state of California’s court costs and various other financial drains. The bill changes the way the state handles the cases of people charged with possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, making it an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.
Now, according to Chattahbox.com, these cases are to be handled in basically the same manner as a speeding ticket, with the person paying a fine instead of going through the lengthy and expensive court process. This bill also eliminates the resulting criminal record that went along with being convicted of the same charges under the previous law.
California has been a leader in laws regarding marijuana for some time, giving other states incentive and a model for redesigning their laws. As reported by Americans for Safe Access, the Compassionate Use Act was enacted in 1996 in California, allowing for medical use of marijuana. Since that time, Procon.org lists 13 other states and the District of Columbia that have also passed laws making the use of medical marijuana legal.
California is also still on the forefront with proponents for making the use and possession of marijuana legal for adults over the age of 21. The Huffington Post reports that Proposition 19, if enacted, would allow these adults to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and to grow small amounts, with the local government regulating the tax and sales of it. The recently signed bill may be just a step in this direction.
Other regulations have also come into play. Various states, though not legalizing marijuana, see benefits in taxing its sales. High Times reports that these laws have been contested in various circumstances, and at times repealed, then re-enacted again in some cases. The general consensus is that these types of laws tend to be self-incriminating, and are thus often unconstitutional. To have the tax stamp is basically deemed as admitting to committing the illegal act of selling it. Hence, without the legalization of marijuana being tied to its taxation, these laws are still left in a difficult form to enforce.
In any number of cases, the argument still boils down to exactly what Governor Scwarzenegger is saying. There is a huge financial burden associated with the government pursuing personal use of marijuana as an illegal act. On the other hand, its legal use could create a cash influx and relieve stress on limited manpower.
Though California is in dire financial straights, and can use such measures as the recently signed bill to help its situation, other states may still see benefits to following suit with similar laws. History has shown that similar measures will be likely to come up elsewhere.
Olivia, Marijuana Possession Now an “Infraction” in California, Chattabox.com
Marijuana Possession In California Reduced To Infraction, The Huffington Post
Chapter 1: Medical Marijuana Law, Americans for Safe Access
Medical Marijuana, Procon.org
Mark Miller, The Marijuana Tax Stamp, High Times