Drug Policy

No Withdrawal Penalty

Most states have rejected "smoke a joint, lose your license."

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In 1990, Congress approved an appropriations bill that threatened to withhold federal highway funds from states that do not suspend the driver's licenses of drug offenders, including people convicted of simple possession, for at least six months. But the law included an escape clause: A state could avoid the requirement if its legislature and governor explicitly agreed to opt out. As of late March, 19 states and the District of Columbia had complied with the federal mandate and 31 had opted out. California adopted a license-suspension law that expires in December, and a bill to extend it (backed by Gov. Pete Wilson) was defeated. The only alternative seemed to be an opt-out resolu tion sponsored by state Sen. Quentin Kopp. The legislature unanimously approved a similar resolution in 1992, but Wilson vetoed it. The governor, who once spoke favorably of marijuana decriminalization, does not want to seem soft on drugs. But he can always sign the resolution and call it a strike against unfunded mandates.

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