California’s Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill this past Friday that reduces the penalty for possession of marijuana down from being a misdemeanor offense to being an infraction in that state, the New York Times reports. This makes marijuana possession in the state of California roughly equal to getting caught by police for speeding, providing that the amount found at the time is equal to or less than one ounce.
Governor Schwarzenegger stated that the move was merely administrative, citing the court costs of prosecuting misdemeanors in his cash-strapped state, but others who are in favor of legalization see it as one more step toward their goal. Voters will decide in November whether or not marijuana will become legal in the state, an initiative the governor has stated he opposes. The latest polls on the issue, according to the New York Times, indicate that the state is leaning toward legalization, at 49 percent in favor versus 42 percent opposed.
If Prop. 19, the bill to legalize marijuana in California, passes like it looks like it’s going to, it is sure to come under immediate legislative fire, much like Prop. 8, the bill that banned gay marriage. In the meantime, however, California would stand as the only state to fully legalize the drug.
Many states have already taken small steps of their own, and have legalized the growth and distribution of medical marijuana and instituted reduced penalties for possession, including Michigan and Massachusetts.
Results have been mixed. In Michigan, the police have conducted raids against several legal marijuana farms, even when their paperwork has been correct. Officials have called for amendments to the marijuana law, calling it too confusing and hard to enforce, and protests have been held around the state due to the raids, reports Digital Journal.
The legalization of medical marijuana is viewed by some as a precursor to legalization of the drug for recreational purposes as well. While that may not necessarily be the case, more states seem to be realizing the monetary potential of state-regulated and taxed marijuana. As cash-strapped states look for ways to increase funding, California may just lead the way by legalizing this once-frowned upon drug as a means to get out of debt. Governor Schwarzenegger, while opposed to the idea, may have just made it an even easier decision for California voters come November.
Jesse McKinley, “California Reduced Its Penalty for Marijuana.” TheNewYorkTimes.com
Michael Billy, “Michigan Voters Legalize Medical Marijuana, Massachusetts Loosens Penalties.” DigitalJournal.com
Bill Laitner, “200 protest Oakland Medical-Marijuana Raids.” Freep.com