While all eyes, red and otherwise, are on November's vote on marijuana legalization in California, the state Senate narrowly voted this week to reclassify
possession of less than an ounce of weed as an infraction with a
penalty of $100 rather than its current status as a misdemeanor with the
Since possession of a less than an ounce is not
punishable by jail time, “That's an infraction, by definition,” according to Sen. Mark Leno (D-San
Francisco), the author of SB 1449.
“All this bill does is call it
what it is–an infraction,” he tells the Sacramento Bee. “It doesn't change the
Misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests have increased, reaching
61,388 in 2008, adds Leno, who notes misdemeanor defendants can request a
jury trial, even if
the maximum penalty that can be imposed is a $100 fine.
“Our courts are clogged,” Leno reportedly said, and it's a “waste of
resources to try someone for possession of less than an ounce of
He's got the support of the California Judicial
Council and the California District Attorneys Association–and the scorn
of the California Narcotics Association and California Police Chiefs
Association (who no doubt want to maintain high misdemeanor arrest
But the folks Leno really needs on his side if his bill
is to become law are members of the Assembly, which still must pass it,
and the guy in the photo. Da Gov must sign it–with his joint pinching
hand, of course.