New Law: Fine, Not Jail, for Pot Possession

Basically, a dime bag infraction costs a C-note

By RJ Middleton
|  Thursday, Feb 10, 2011  |  Updated 7:39 AM PDT
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Celebrities Gone to Pot

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Young marijuana plants are shown Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009, in Seattle. The marijuana is distributed to members of a cooperative of medical patients who have received doctor's authorization to use the drug to treat their illnesses, such as AIDS and multiple sclerosis. Unlike several other states which permit marijuana sales to patients, Washington requires patients to grow marijuana themselves or designate a caregiver to grow it for them.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Original Filename: Medical_Marijuana_WATW102.jpg

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A new law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lowers the penalty for getting caught with less than one ounce of marijuana to simply a fine. Instead of a misdemeanor, violaters will receive infraction and a $100 fine.

So it won't add to your criminal record -- if you remember to pay the fine on time. Basically, the reduction makes a small pot bust similar to a parking ticket -- no trips to court necessary.

And this goes for any pot, medical or not. So, regardless of the golden ticket your 'doctor' issued you after asking if you 'have trouble sleeping,' keep your carry stash to less than 28.5 grams. Any more than that and you're back in the six-months-in-jail and $500-fine penalty area.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said it will reduce the backlog in our furlough-filled court system. And even The Man agrees with that, according to KPBS in San Diego: "We do not normally go to court for infractions," said Andrew Jones, San Diego assistant city attorney for the criminal division.

The governor, who opposes Prop. 19, which would allow for recreational marijuana use, sees this new infraction as a consolation.

But Randy Thomasson of SaveCalifornia.org told the Los Angeles Times that the new law "invites youth to become addicted to mind-altering pot because there's not much hassle and no public stigma and no rehab if they’re caught." 

Other opponents of the bill cited the "gateway drug / slippery slope / deterioration of civilization" reasoning.

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