Bringing some weed over to a friend's house isn't the same thing as getting caught by the California Highway Patrol with $120,000 worth of cocaine -- unless you're the law.
Both acts can be charged as "transporting." Lawmakers in Sacramento are seeking to change that by specifying that carrying drugs -- as in any and all drugs -- possessed solely for personal use and not for sale can't constitute as a "transporting" charge, which is an additional felony.
This tweak -- which received approval this week from the California Senate and may soon head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown -- is being fought by the usual suspects: the state Narcotics Officers Association and the state district attorneys, who say the change makes it harder to prosecute drug traffickers.
The bill is being pushed by Sen. Steven Bradford of Gardena as a way to ensure low-level offenders aren't sent to overcrowded state prisons as drug traffickers. It has the support of Democrats like San Francisco's Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the 2010 bill that makes an ounce or less of marijuana an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.
While no stats are available, we noticed that criminal complaints against those found with drugs in a vehicle, including medical marijuana, were charged with both transportation as well as possession for sale.
As Inglewood's Sen. Rod Wright told the Sacramento Bee, "What this bill is intended to fix is that someone who would have been charged with simple possession, because their quantity was small, not end up with transportation for sale because (prosecutors) wanted to add charges."
That's too soft-on-crime for state Republicans, who joined the state's powerful law enforcement lobbies as opponents of the bill.
As the District Attorneys Association points out, transportation triggers a three-year penalty enhancement if the transporter is later convicted of sales. "Making this charge more difficult to prove, which is accomplished by requiring the intent to sell, will hinder enforcement of drug trafficking and jeopardize public safety, " the DAs argue.
And there's your conflict. Brown will settle the score after the bill goes back to the Assembly for a procedural vote.