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New California Marijuana Possession Law Reduces Punishment

by California Legal Defenders on November 15th, 2010

On October 1, 2010, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1449. The law which goes into effect on January 1, 2011 reduces possession of up to one ounce of marijuana (28.5 grams), from misdemeanor to an infraction. The $100 fine remains the same. However, possession of less than an ounce of Marijuana on the grounds of K-12 during school hours remains as a misdemeanor and therefore subject to tougher penalties.

Even though SB1449 does not go as far as legalizing possession of “up to an ounce of marijuana by a person 21 and older,” (proposition 19) which was rejected by the California voters, it significantly reduces current penalties.

SB 1449 was introduced as “an amendment to the Section 11357 of the Health and Safety Code and Section 23222 of the Vehicle Code.” Under the current law “every person who possesses not more than an ounce of marijuana, other than concentrated cannabis, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” The penalty for the stated offense is a fine of not more than $100. The Same penalty is “imposed for the crime of possessing not more than an ounce of marijuana while driving.”

It is important to note that under SB1449, an individual who is charged with possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is not entitled to jury trial or a court appointed attorney. Furthermore, the infraction will not go on individual’s criminal record.

It is unclear how conviction of marijuana infraction affects the federal provision of student financial aid. Currently,  federal law states that “ a student who is convicted of any federal or state law involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance while receiving federal student financial aid is no longer eligible for federal aid for certain period of time. “

Moreover, the jury is still out about whether a plea to this newly created infraction  will affect federal grants, school loans, and job applications. People need to be careful about pleading guilty to this new infraction until the potential collateral damages are assessed. If you or your loved one is being investigated for, or charged with a drug crime, please do not hesitate to contact Valencia, Ippolito& Bowman. Our experienced attorneys have handled hundreds of cases involving drug crimes throughout Santa Clara County and can vigorously defend your case. 


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