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Drop In San Diego Arrests Linked To New Marijuana Law

Aired 11/29/12 on KPBS News.

A dramatic drop in 2011 arrests in San Diego County is linked to a new law that reduced the charge for possession of up to an once of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

— The number of arrests in San Diego County in 2011 was down dramatically compared to the previous year. A report from SANDAG, San Diego's regional planning agency, showed an 11 percent drop in arrests among adults and an 18 percent drop among juveniles.

marijuana plant

Above: marijuana plant

But those numbers pale in comparison to the 90 percent overall decrease in marijuana-related arrests.

Cynthia Burke, who compiled the SANDAG report, said a new state law seems to explain the huge decrease in marijuana arrests. California Senate Bill 1449, which took effect in January of last year, reduced the charge for possession of up to an once of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. Burke says marijuana made up half of the total decrease in San Diego County arrests in 2011.

"There have been other drops in other categories, in terms of the violent offenses, the property offenses," said Burke. "But nothing so dramatic as that drop from almost 7,000 (marijuana arrests) to 700."

Burke adds that crime last year was at a 30-year low. But she warns that mid-year crime statistics for 2012 show an increase in San Diego County, so arrests for this year may also be up compared to 2011.

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