Grow Love

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Dear California friends & supporters of marijuana reform:
Gov. Schwarzenegger has just proposed spending more money on new prisons. The Gov. has also proposed cutting Prop. 36 drug treatment programs intended to keep offenders out of prison, California currently has over 1,400 marijuana prisoners, more than 14 times the number in 1980.
Tell the Governor it's time to stop wasting taxpayers' money imprisoning people for victimless marijuana crimes! Tell him that California should eliminate felony penalties for minor marijuana offenses, such as home cultivation, petty sales and possession of hashish. The following letter describes concrete legislative proposals that would help reduce marijuana prisoners and crime.
Let the Governor know what you think! Comments can be addressed to or the Governor's mailing address below.
- Dale Gieringer, Cal NORML

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol
Sacramento CA 95814

In light of California's prison crowding crisis, we urge you to consider steps to reduce the number of non-violent marijuana prisoners. California currently has over 1,400 offenders in state prison for marijuana felonies - over 14 times as many as in 1980. African-Americans are over-represented among marijuana offenders by a factor of five. California currently spends over $160 million per year on arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning marijuana offenders.
In the last election, voters overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to make marijuana "lowest enforcement priority" in three California cities: Santa Monica, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Similar measures have been approved in San Francisco, Oakland and West Hollywood. A recent poll by Evans-McDonough shows that 58% of California voters agree that reducing marijuana penalties is a good way to reduce prison crowding.
The costs of marijuana enforcement are unduly inflated by the fact that certain minor but common offenses remain felonies, in particular petty cultivation and distribution. Downgrading such offenses to misdemeanors, would save the state's taxpayers court and imprisonment costs. Similar laws have been adopted elsewhere, including Alaska, Maine, Colorado, Ohio, and Australia.

We recommend decriminalization legislation to address the following problems:
Problem (1): Under current law (H&SC 11358), cultivation of any amount of marijuana is a felony - even a single plant. This perversely encourages otherwise responsible, adult marijuana users to buy from criminal traffickers rather than grow their own at home, since the former is subject to at most misdemeanor possession charges, while the latter is punished as a felony. In theory, "personal use" cultivation defendants can apply for "deferred entry of judgment" under PC 1000; however this is subject to numerous restrictions and involves burdensome diversion and court costs. The present law is especially burdensome to medical marijuana patients, who, even though they are legally entitled to grow under Prop.215, are nonetheless often arrested and taken to court on felony charges, an expensive and harrowing ordeal.
Solution (1a) : Make small-scale personal use home cultivation a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine below a certain threshold. This policy has been adopted in Ohio, Colorado and some Australian states. A more liberal approach was recommended by California's Research Advisory Panel in 1990, calling for complete elimination of criminal penalties for personal possession and cultivation of marijuana. This is currently the law in Alaska.
Solution (1b): Make other low-level cultivation offenses regular misdemeanors (punishable by possible jail time), provided they take place on property owned or controlled by the grower. This would create a useful distinction between small, private gardens and the large-scale plantations that are currently being grown by organized criminal gangs on public lands, which are more properly treated as felonies.

Problem (2) Under current law, (H&SC 11359 and 11360) sale, transportation, distribution and possession with intent to sell or distribute are felonies for ANY amount of marijuana - even a single joint.
(Exceptions: giving away or transporting less than one ounce are minor misdemeanors). In contrast, assault and battery are misdemeanors, even though they cause direct violence to others. This sends an irresponsible message about the relative harm of marijuana crimes. Convictions for intent to sell account for the majority of the marijuana felonies that are currently crowding prisons. Many involve petty dealers, who are more commonly arrested than major traffickers. As a public nuisance, petty dealing is akin to prostitution, which is presently treated as a misdemeanor.
Solution (2): Downgrade minor sales to a misdemeanor or wobbler. This is presently done in the state of Maine, where sales of one pound or less, or cultivation of 100 plants or less, are punished as misdemeanors. One possible alternative: make first-time sale/intent to sell for one ounce or less a misdemeanor; other sales of less than 10 pounds a wobbler.

Problem (3) Under current law (H&SC 11357A), possession of hashish or concentrated cannabis is a wobbler punishable as an optional felony, and is not eligible for the standard $100 misdemeanor fine.
The distinction between hashish and marijuana is obsolescent given recent increases in marijuana potency. Hashish is not distinguished from marijuana under California's medical marijuana law, H&SC 11362.5. In its 2002 budget cut proposals, the LAO estimated that treating hashish as a misdemeanor would save the state $4.8 million.
Solution (3): treat hashish like marijuana, at a ratio of 1 ounce marijuana = 1/4 ounce of concentrated cannabis. This would make possession of <1/4>1/4 oz. a regular misdemeanor, and in no case would it be a felony.
We hope you will consider supporting proposals along these lines. California is spending far too much of its resources imprisoning its citizens for victimless marijuana and drug crimes.


Dale H. Gieringer,
Coordinator, California NORML
2215-R Market St. @278 San Francisco CA 94114
415-563-5858 ./ FAX 510-849-3974 /

California NORML (415) 563-5858 //
2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114


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