August 2, 2013

California: Law Change Leads To Dramatic Decline In Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests

August 2, 2013
California Issues Proposed Medical Marijuana Licensing Rules

California marijuana arrestsThe annual number of misdemeanor drug arrests has fallen by nearly 50 percent in California in five years, largely due to the imposition of a 2010 law reducing minor marijuana possession offenses to a civil infraction.

According to figures released this week in the 2012 California Crime Report, statewide misdemeanor drug arrests fell from an estimated 133,000 in 2007 to some 72,000 in 2012. The greatest decline was reported in marijuana misdemeanor arrests, which dropped from a near-record high of 61,000 prosecutions in 2009, the year prior to the infraction law’s passage, to fewer than 8,000 in 2012.

Stated Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director: “Rather than continuing to spend tens of thousands of dollars in police time and in judicial costs arresting and prosecuting tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders, these state resources are now being reprioritized toward other, more important public safety activities.”

In October 2010, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation, Senate Bill 1449, into law reclassifying the adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction, punishable by a $100 fine – no court appearance, no court costs, and no criminal record. Possession offenses involving quantities greater than 28.5 grams remain classified as misdemeanors. The law took effect on January 1, 2011.

Several other states - including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Rhode Island – similarly classify minor marijuana possession as a noncriminal offense.

Felony drug arrests in California also fell some 15 percent over the past five years, the 2012 report found. Felony marijuana arrests totaled 13,434 in 2012, down from 14,082 reported felonies in 2011.

For more information, please visit California NORML at:

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