Weeding Out Costs

STATE ISSUES: By reducing the possession of marijuana to an infraction, the state makes a sensible step forward to save legal costs.

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Minor laws broken qualify as infractions that are accompanied by a fine, but no trial, no risk of jail time and no mark on any criminal record. Infractions include littering, parking tickets and, now, possession of marijuana in the state of California.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1449 into law last week, reducing the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. While the $100 fine for possession will remain the same, the governor said this change will significantly reduce court and law enforcement costs.

Some may be surprised that the governor supported this measure since he opposes Proposition 19 on November's ballot, which would legalize marijuana possession for adults over 21. Regardless, we believe he made the right choice for SB 1449. It will reduce senseless expenses for our cash-strapped state that still has not officially passed a budget 95 days after the deadline.

Opponents who claim that changing possession to an infraction will only increase public use forget that there will still be a consequence for those caught with pot. Those individuals simply will not clog up the legal system that should really be spending its time and resources on other cases. Finally, we have a state measure that serves as a simple adjustment for significant financial improvement.

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