New pot law of concern to some

Police say impact minimal
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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A new state law that will decriminalize a small amount of marijuana possession drew mixed reaction from some locals. The law, Senate Bill 1449, was recently signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and reduces the punishment for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. The law maintains the $100 fine that can be levied on an offender but the new legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, means the minimal marijuana possession will not appear on a person’s criminal record, nor can they be booked into jail or finger-printed. Capt. John Ruffcorn with the Auburn Police Department said the law does not change how his officers currently handle minor marijuana possession. Right now, officers typically cite someone who has an ounce or less of the drug but do not arrest them and take them to jail unless there are “extenuating circumstances,” Ruffcorn said. “Really, it’s taking what was previously there and truly making it an infraction,” Ruffcorn said. “The way it was previously written it had all the elements of an infraction there but it was still a misdemeanor.” However, Ruffcorn said he is waiting to see what happens this November when Proposition 19, which proposes to legalize marijuana in the state, goes to voters. Ruffcorn said he opposes making use of the drug legal. He added that current law in regard to medical marijuana and the new one that takes effect in January can add an extra challenge to police officers. “It’s very hard on line-level officers having to make a split-second decision whether to arrest someone or not,” Ruffcorn said. “If they have a medical marijuana card or an expired card then there’s possibly the chance the district attorney might not file the case.” Lt. Jeff Ausnow with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said that deputies follow the current law and said they will proceed under the guidelines of the new law. “Really it’s not going to impact us either way,” Ausnow said. Auburn resident Dimitri Masumbuko agreed. “It’s not really an issue,” Masumbuko said. “I don’t think it’s going to change much.” However, Auburn resident Alexis Guess said she’s concerned about people who might take advantage of the new law. “I think the biggest problem in legalizing it at all are the people abusing it more than they already do,” Guess said. Guess said while she believes law enforcement officers have bigger problems to solve, she doesn’t think marijuana use should be legal. “Once it starts to affect other people, that’s when the problems start happening,” Guess said. “Whether it’s their own children or other people driving.” Reach Jenifer Gee at