New marijuana law reducing penalty for posession comes into effect

For those who want to start the New Year with a hit, a new California law makes their plan less risky than before.

The law, SB 1449, which took effect Jan. 1, downgrades the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction, punishable by a $100 fine.

Violators of the law will no longer be required to show up in court, and the infraction will not appear as part of their criminal record.

University police will make a corresponding change to how they handle marijuana enforcement to be in line with the new law, said UCPD Lt. Russell McKinney.

Supporters of the law, including former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have said that SB 1449 will reduce court spending.
However, Mark Kleiman, a professor in public policy, said the financial impact of the law will probably be slight.

He cited a case in Western Australia where a similar law made marijuana a ticketable offense. The number of people jailed for smoking marijuana in the region actually went up following the law’s implementation, as many offenders never paid the fine and so faced more serious consequences, Kleiman said.

The new law is also unlikely to substantially increase marijuana consumption, Kleiman said. But he said it is possible that some police might feel more willing to cite people for possession of marijuana knowing that the punishment is less severe, when they might have looked the other way before.

Some students said they believe the law does not change marijuana policy enough.

“Marijuana should have been made legal ages ago,” said Andrew Liang, a first-year ecology, behavior, and evolution student who said he supported Proposition 19, which would have made marijuana use legal under California state law.

Liang said he thinks the best solution would be to tax marijuana in a way similar to how alcohol is regulated.

Jasmine Ramos, a third-year sociology student, said she thought the law was a good idea because it prevents such a small offense from going on someone’s permanent record.

But Jonathan Amzaleg, a third-year biochemistry student, was unhappy about the new law.

“It creates the illusion that it’s okay to smoke marijuana,” Amzaleg said. “I do not think this is a step in the right direction.”

via : Daily Bruin

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