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California Decriminalizes Possession Of Small Amount Of Marijuana

Possession of an ounce or less of pot can no longer land you in the slammer.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a bill into law decriminalizing marijuana in the state of California.

The penalty for someone caught carrying an ounce or less of marijuana now essentially carries the same penalty as a speeding ticket, according to S.B. 1449.

The governor said the law will save the state money.

Californians are still divided on whether to legalize it.

Several polls show the race is close for the November election.

Its also a hot button issue.

News Channel 3 spoke with several people in Palm Springs about it. But most didn’t want to give their opinion on camera.

“If you legalize it you can’t drug test them because its legal,” said Leroy Santa, who is against legalizing marijuana.

“I don’t want people driving down the street smoking and if you legalize it completely who says you can’t do that?” said Bill Davis, who is on the fence of whether or not legalization is a smart move.

Proposition 19 calls for the legalization of marijuana.

It would be regulated like alcohol.

Adults 21 years and older could use it for recreational use and they could also grow.

However, the debate over whether or not to decriminalize marijuana was less divided.

“I look at it as a very bold, and like I said, a visionary move made by the governor,” said Rick Pantele, who supports the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana.

The bill Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law makes possession of an ounce or less of marijuana an infraction — it will no longer be a misdemeanor.

The offense could still carry a $100 fine, but no arrest or risk of having a criminal record.

Pantele is a former member of the Palm Springs Medical Marijuana Task Force, and helped bring legally operated cannabis dispensaries to the city.

“It’ll allow the police officer to go out and fight crimes that are more pertinent to our citizens, and stop them from having to spend taxpayer’s money prosecuting these people,” he said.

The governor made a similar argument.

He said the bill will save the state money in legal fees by not prosecuting possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Stacy Hochanadel is the owner of medicinal marijuana dispensary, Cannahelp, in Palm Springs.

He has more than 3,700 registered patients.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction for law enforcement and also the general public,” he said.

As a collective owner, Hochanadel is also for legalizing marijuana and he doesn’t believe that would hurt his business.

“I think that we would just tend to define more of our products and it would help create a little more of a competitive market for everyone,” he said.

“It’s a terrible idea to put them in jail — it’s already overcrowded,” said Davis.

The state bill Schwarzenegger signed into law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

KESQ News Team

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