Federal and CA State Laws Clash on Marijuana

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Federal and CA State Laws Clash on Marijuana The U.S. federal government is stepping up their effort to close medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of California. Federal prosecutors have issued letters to landlords of these institutions within the last month, warning them to stop their sales within 45 days or else run the risk of losing their property and facing jail time (Los Angeles Times). Currently, the federal government and the CA state government hold different laws regarding the legality of marijuana. CA even passed a bill last year that made carrying marijuana for non-medical use less of an offense. In January 2011, Senate Bill 1449 became law in California, which downgraded the possession of marijuana up to one ounce from a misdemeanor to an infraction. The biggest difference with the passing of this bill is that the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense, staying off of one’s criminal record and eliminating any possibility of imprisonment. Infractions are governed by state laws, and are not considered a criminal offense. The maximum penalty is a $250 fine, and once the fine is paid the incident leaves one’s record (unless of course the fine goes unpaid and becomes outstanding, in which case it will reflect on one’s credit report. Traffic tickets, making illegal u-turns, and so forth are examples of infractions. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is less serious than a felony, and generally punished by a fine, a jail term of up to one year, or both. Unlike infractions, misdemeanors stay put on one’s criminal record, and can mar the integrity of a job applicant or loan applicant. Background checks are done for new employees, and even banks that are considering granting business loans usually require good standing character (i.e. a clean criminal record.) Also, credit ranking agencies are legally allowed to include criminal records when calculating credit scores, although they usually opt not to. Currently, under federal law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is considered a crime, the sentence being dependant on how many previous offenses a person has had. A first offense is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, second offense can be up to two full years in prison, and any possession after that is subject to a $5,000 fine and up to three years of jail time.