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California Bill To Make Growing Pot A Misdemeanor Passes First Test

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Marijuana leaves (AP Graphic)

(AP)

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – The California Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would give local law authorities the power to charge small time marijuana growers with a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

The bill introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano would make cultivating pot into a so-called wobbler offense where the grower’s individual circumstances determine the gravity of the charges.

“This would basically give the DA the discretion,” Ammiano said.

First-time offenders and small-time growers could be charged with misdemeanors, freeing up prosecutors to focus on large scale operations and drug cartels.

The bill would allow prosecutors to also consider factors such as recidivism in deciding what charges to pursue.

Currently marijuana growing in any capacity is an automatic felony under California law.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Ammiano said prosecutors in Mendocino and other parts of what’s known as the Emerald Triangle all support AB 1017. “They have big plantations up there with very bad people running them and this would allow them to focus on those big guys.”

One prosecutor has already taken some controversial steps in this direction.

Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster has allowed people charged with felony cultivation to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession if they pay a $50 a plant fee to fund marijuana eradication.

Despite strong support in Northern California, the California District Attorney’s Association opposes the legislation.

The Assembly is expected to vote on AB 1017 before the end of May.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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