SACRAMENTO, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill reducing penalties for possession of marijuana, saying it will help conserve "limited" court resources.
Schwarzenegger, who opposes a ballot initiative that would legalize recreational use of marijuana, signed SB 1449 Thursday. Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, the law reclassifies possession of an ounce or less of pot from a misdemeanor to an infraction, with violators subject to fines of as much as $100 but no jail sentences.
"Notwithstanding my opposition to Proposition 19, however, I am signing this measure because possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name," Schwarzenegger said. "In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket."
Randy Thomasson, president of saveCalifornia.com, told the Los Angeles Times the new law "invites youth to become addicted to mind-altering pot because there's not much hassle and no public stigma and no rehab if they're caught."
Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, which supports legalization of marijuana use and possession, said "Californians increasingly recognize that the war on marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources."