In 2009, 7,440 people were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana offenses in Orange County. In 2014, the number of pot-related arrests plunged to 548, a 93 percent decrease thanks to a law that passed in 2010, making so possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is a civil infraction, the Orange County Register reported.
Orange County is no different than the rest of California where we’ve seen the number of marijuana misdemeanors drop by 90 percent between the years 2008 and 2014.
Pot legalization initiatives are making their way towards the November ballot, but they’re not focused on making room in California’s jails because they don’t have many marijuana offenders in them anymore.
“Marijuana possession has fallen from a felony to a misdemeanor to an infraction,” said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. “It’s essentially decriminalized already in California.”
Dealers, however, will still be slapped with felony charges.
The plunge in marijuana-related arrests have some in law enforcement disgruntled. Critics of legalizing marijuana, including Hutchens, are afraid that it encourages teenagers to smoke pot and to drive under the influence.
Hutchens is concerned about young people using the drug. “If we legalize a drug, we’re saying it’s OK. What kind of message does that send?” Hutchens said. “We don’t need one other thing to dumb our kids down or demotivate them.”
The California Sheriffs’ Association is against the legalization of marijuana. They believe that legalizing marijuana goes against the interests of public health and safety.
Advocates of legalization are tackling the youth issue, arguing that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act would incapacitate the black market by moving pot purchases into a legal structure that safeguards against children purchasing marijuana.
We’ll have to see what happens this coming November.
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