Marijuana Basically Already Legal in California

Shift in attitudes 'shocking,' says lieutenant governor

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 21, 2012 11:17 AM CST | Updated Dec 21, 2012 11:30 AM CST

(Newser) – Pot may not technically be legal in California, but the stigma against it is already long gone in the state, reports the New York Times. With medical marijuana legal since 1996 and even former a Republican governor—Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course—having decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug, smoking pot in America's most populous state has gone from a just-say-no crime to a non-issue. "I can remember when your second conviction of having a single marijuana cigarette would get you two to 20 in San Quentin," says John Burton, California's Democratic chairman. Nowadays, people openly light up at concerts—even at indoor venues where smoking a regular cigarette would get you kicked out.

Of course, marijuana is still illegal in most of the US, as the Justice Department reminds California with each medical marijuana dispensary shutdown, and some people interviewed for the Times article declined to use their names for fear it could hurt their careers. But the trend remains unmistakeable. "It's shocking, from my perspective, the number of people that we all know who are recreational marijuana users," says Gavin Newsom, California's lieutenant governor. "[Anti-pot laws] just don’t make sense anymore. It's time for politicians to come out of the closet on this."

In this Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, medical marijuana clone plants are shown at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.
In this Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, medical marijuana clone plants are shown at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
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