Assembly rejects lighter penalty for growing pot

The Assembly this week rejected a bill that would’ve reduced marijuana cultivation from a felony – punishable by 16 months, two years or three years in state prison – to a “wobbler” that can be filed either as a felony or as a misdemeanor punishable by a year in county jail.

AB 1017, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, failed Wednesday on a 24-36 vote. Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley; and Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, voted for it, while Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, opposed it and Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, didn’t vote.

Swanson said the communities he represents is struggling with a severe drug crisis, and the bill would’ve moved California in the wrong direction.

“If we really want comprehensive drug reform, we can’t just relax certain portions of the laws around marijuana cultivation and use. We need to address the issue comprehensively through federal law,” he said, adding he fears the bill sends the wrong message to kids, that recreational marijuana use is acceptable. “This is not appropriate, especially when federal law continues to prosecute the crime, with a disproportionate effect on communities of color. You can’t address these issues in a vacuum, particularly where our state law comes into conflict with the federal.”

He said he’ll remain open-minded on the issue, “but as long as I see marijuana use preventing many of our young people from getting employed because they can’t pass drug tests, and all of the other adverse and negative impacts by accepting this drug as recreational, it clearly isn’t the time to start lessening the restrictions on its cultivation or use. The consequences of making this a recreational drug –- or creating the perception that we are trending that way by lessening the restrictions — has long-term and significant consequences I am not prepared support.”

Reconsideration of the bill was granted Thursday, but it was ordered to the Assembly’s inactive file at the request of Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Montebello.

Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, was the lone GOP vote in support of the bill, which was sponsored by Mendocino County District Attorney C. David Eyster and supported by the California Public Defenders Association and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“The state legislature has once again demonstrated its incompetence when it comes to dealing with prison crowding,” California NORML Director Dale Gieringer said in a news release. “With California under court order to reduce its prison population, it is irresponsible to maintain present penalties for non-violent drug offenses. It makes no sense to keep marijuana growing a felony, when assault, battery, and petty theft are all misdemeanors. Legislators have once again caved in to the state’s law enforcement establishment, which has a vested professional interest in maximizing drug crime.”

The bill was opposed by the California District Attorneys Association, California Narcotics Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California State Sheriffs’ Association.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • David I

    I am writing with concern for our individual rights to liberty for the people.
    We have become a nation where our nation prison system is a for hire service, with the objective of financial gain, to the point of corruption through support of political candidates, for more restrictive regulations and law making. A money making proposition for law enforcement, the attorneys, prison systems, and the courts. The injustice to the people is representative of the tyranny of a police state in violation of the Constitutional mandate to ” secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity”… The original intent of our United States Constitution.
    It is in the interest of our nation to codify the responsibility to the liberty of the people as protected by the 9th and 10th Amendments of the Constitution. Here is an understanding of the necessary duty to codify.
    The U.S. Constitution, 9th Amendment is there for that purpose to protect the individual liberty of the people. Quoted here: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This Amendment has a Constitutional mandate that protects the peoples rights as Noted in the Articles and List of Amendments of the United States Constitution, but not limited to them only. It establishes a mandate to the rights of the people that we call “freedom” as stated by the clause Of the 9th Amendment “ Shall not be construed to deny or disparage Others” (Meaning Other Rights) “ Retained by the people.”
    The other rights of the people are those common to the individual survival, property rights, free trade, and freedom of the people for which common acceptance of society has understood the sense of this respect, but not limited too. Some settled law limitations have been determined in the past as an institutional constriction of these rights, which previously have not been judged to the responsibility of the 9th Amendment.
    These judgements of law shall not continue to be subject to reference of acceptable judgement.

  • David I

    When a law is passed as an act that provides a specific right for the people, that law then has constitutional protection as a right of the people. Later the law is changed to restrict this right previously allowed, then the new restriction shall be considered in contempt of the 9th Amendment, that law then becomes unenforceable and deleted for its applied change to restrict a previous right. The greater right for the people shall prevail.
    The 9th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has a duty for the judiciary to maintain a responsibility to respect the greater right of the people for the limitation of the jurisdiction of the law. This is also a requirement for all law makers, the judiciary, and law enforcement agencies per their oath of office to defend the Rights of the people to the constitution. It is the 9th Amendment mandate for the attitude of Government to the people. I.E. When in doubt, the greater right of the individual shall prevail.
    Where a judgment for the right of the people is in conflict between interpretation between the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme court of the individual states, that which provides the greater respect for the right of the people, shall prevail. This is responsibility of respect for the rights of the people under the10th Amendment, and if a more restrictive law is created by the state than the federal law, then the federal law shall relieve the restriction of the state law based on the 9th Amendment.
    All interpretation are relative to the responsibility and duty of the 9th Amendment. That it represents a personal individual right for each and every one of us, that majority right’s do not trump individual rights protected by the 9th Amendment, and the 10th amendment.
    The “Blessings of Liberty” are our God given right to freedom, please do not allow a government legislature to destroy it as they are attempting to do in California. We the people have the initiative process to declare the stated interpretation of the 9th and 10th Amendment as the Constitutional law of the State of California. Let us do so. It will force the debate on to the national stage to force a national interpretation to provide the same.

  • Patty O’Day

    Does Joan Buchanan ever vote on ANYTHING? What is her problem? Does she have trouble reading the bills, or what?

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Patty: You need to listen to Leonard Cohen’s song “Democracy is Comin’ to the USA”

  • Growing or doing anything with a pot plant is a basic human right and that right is guaranteed by;
    The Constitution of the United States of America.
    ? or can’t the LAW ENFORCEMENT thugs read ?

    Besides,, the fine misguided olde-dogs in so-called law-enforcement? work for the taxpayer and they have NO SAY ON POLICY as an organization,,, because,, why?? THEY WORK FOR THE AX PAYER,,, thank you.. thank you..

  • just thinking out loud,,,
    if we lay-off or just fire all the cops, then they will have no voice.
    — problem solved–