California Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Tom Ammiano today said he introduced a bill last Friday that would change marijuana cultivation from a mandatory felony penalty to an alternate felony or misdemeanor known as a “wobbler”
“The proposed change affords local District Attorneys the charging discretion to determine, for example, that a home gardener with a few non-medical marijuana plants will not be prosecuted at the same level as a profiteer operating a major marijuana plantation,” Eyster said in Ammiano’s news release. “It makes no sense that unlawful possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is an infraction, that possession of more than an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor, that possession of methamphetamines may be charged as a misdemeanor, but that growing any amount of marijuana must be charged as a straight felony punishable by prison.”
Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said the change “is long overdue and is simply common sense. Allowing marijuana cultivation to be a misdemeanor will save the state money, allow for more cost-effective prosecution and reflects the views of most Californians. I applaud DA Eyster for his leadership on trying to create a rational public policy for marijuana in California.”
Stephen Gutwillig, the Drug Policy Alliance’s California director, said the state’s budget crisis requires reconsidering its penal policies. “Sending nonviolent marijuana offenders to state prison is a particular waste of resources in a state that lowered marijuana possession penalties and seriously considered ending marijuana prohibition outright last year. That law enforcement figures like District Attorney Eyster are supporting Assemblymember Ammiano’s sensible new legislation shows how quickly the tide is turning against our costly, ineffective, and punitive marijuana policies.”
California District Attorneys Association CEO W. Scott Thorpe said the CDAA “is reviewing the bill and has not taken a position.” I’ve not yet heard back from the California Narcotic Officers’ Association or the California Police Chiefs Association, but I’d bet that once they’ve reviewed the bill, they’ll not favor it.
UPDATE @ 11:15 P.M.: California Police Chiefs Association lobbyist John Lovell says the group hasn’t yet taken a position on AB 1017, but “my guess is that, given the critical level of problems created by cartel cultivation in California, we would oppose this bill.”
UPDATE @ 4:42 P.M. THURSDAY: California Narcotic Officers’ Association Executive Director Joe Stewart said today his group “is obviously concerned about the bill. As always, CNOA is always vigilant in looking into this and other bills that effect the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana.”