What are the California Marijuana Laws?

California Marijuana Laws
In November of 2016, California voters passed Prop 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California meaning that adults 21 and over could use, sell, and cultivate marijuana under strict regulations. With these strict regulations of California marijuana laws, those who use, sell, or cultivate could still face penalties.

Possession for Personal Use

There are limits to how much marijuana you can have on your person according to California marijuana laws. You cannot possess (for personal use) more than 28.5 grams (a little more than an ounce) or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish). You could face a misdemeanor or infraction punishment if:

  • You are not 21 or older,
  • You are carrying more than 28.5 grams or four grams of concentrated cannabis, or
  • You possess marijuana or concentrated cannabis on any K-12 school grounds while school is in session.

Depending on the circumstances the penalties can include:

  • Drug counseling and community service
  • Fine up to $100
  • Up to six months in a county jail
  • Fine up to $500
  • Up to $250 fine for first offense

Cultivation

Under California marijuana laws, it is legal for most adults 21 years or older to cultivate up to six marijuana plants.
Anyone under 21 who grows any amount of marijuana is guilty of an infraction. Those who are under 18 who cultivate marijuana must attend drug counseling and do community service. People over the age of 18 but under 21 may be fined up to $100.
Cultivating over six plants of marijuana is a crime. Those who do so will be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
This can also be charged as a felony if the defendant:

  • Has a serious violent felony on their record,
  • Is a registered sex offender,
  • Has two or more prior convictions for cultivating more than six marijuana plants,
  • Violates certain environmental laws while cultivating marijuana.

Possession with the Intent to Sell

In order to sell marijuana, you must obtain a state license and possibly a local license. If you do not have a license you will be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine up to $500.
Possession of marijuana with the intent to sell without a license becomes a felony when:

  • You have a prior conviction for certain serious violent felonies including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires you to register as a sex offender.
  • You have two prior misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession for sale.
  • You possessed marijuana for sale in connection with a sale to someone under 18.

Penalties as a felony include sixteen months, two or three years in a county jail.

Selling Marijuana Without a License

Under California marijuana laws, you can only sell marijuana if you obtain a license allowing you to do so. When sold without a license you can be charged with a misdemeanor that is punished by up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.
It becomes a felony when:

  • You have a prior conviction for a certain serious violent felony, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender.
  • You have two prior misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession for sale.
  • You knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell marijuana to someone under 18.
  • You imported, attempted to import, offered to import, or transported more than 28.5 grams of marijuana for more than 4 grams of concentrated cannabis into California or out of California.

Any of the scenarios can be punishable by two, three, or four years in jail.

Selling Marijuana to a Minor

Even with the passing of Prop 64, this law has not changed. It still remains a felony to sell marijuana to a minor. You also cannot use a minor to transport, carry, sell, give away, furnish, administer, prepare for sale, or peddle any marijuana. The penalty for involving a minor under 14 years old is three, five, or seven years in a state prison. If the minor is over the age of 14 but under 18 years old then the penalty is three, four, or five years in a state prison.

Driving with Marijuana

Driving with marijuana on your person is comparable to driving with open alcohol containers in your vehicle. It is an infraction and can be punished with a fine up to $100.

Federal Law

Even though California marijuana laws allow people to use, cultivate, and sell marijuana, it is still a Schedule 1 hallucinogenic drug under the Controlled Substance Act. The federal government believes that marijuana and medical marijuana has a high potential for abuse so the use, cultivation, or sales on federal property face high penalties.

  • For the first offense of simple possession the penalties include a fine up to $1,000 and up to one year in a federal prison.
  • Cultivation, possession with the intent to sell, and/or the sale of fewer than 50 pounds of marijuana or 50 plants faces up to five years in a federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

For example, these penalties are possible if possession, use, cultivation, or sales occur in public airports, federal buildings, post offices, national parks, or federal courthouses.

Legal Defenses Against California Marijuana Laws

When charged with unlawful possession, use, cultivation or sale of marijuana, it’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you fight the charges. Some of the most common legal defenses include:

Unlawful Search and Seizure

Police need to have a warrant or the suspect’s permission to search them or their things. If you are searched without a warrant and did not give permission, then the evidence found cannot be used. But if the marijuana is in plain view then the police are allowed to use it as evidence.

The Marijuana is Not Yours

Sometimes drugs are planted on a person or on their property without their knowledge. If you didn’t know that there was marijuana on your property then you can’t be guilty.

The Crime Lab Analysis was Inaccurate

Just because something looks like marijuana doesn’t mean that it is. Oregano looks like marijuana and is often mistaken for the drug. In order to be proven that it is a drug, it requires laboratory analysis.

The Drugs are Missing or Lost

An experienced criminal defense lawyer will make the prosecutors produce the drugs in question. If they can’t be produced, then there is no evidence that they ever existed.

Entrapment

Entrapment is rare but can still happen when police are performing “sting” operations. If the police lure someone to transport marijuana when they wouldn’t do so otherwise, then the entrapment defense can be used. This can also happen in the law enforcement officers provide the drugs in the first place.

The Marijuana in Question is Medical Marijuana

While this is not a valid defense in federal cases, medical marijuana can be an effective defense in California where it is legal. A doctor’s testimony must be provided or some other persuasive evidence that the marijuana is used for medicinal reasons.

California Marijuana Laws Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a marijuana offense, hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight for you!

Any questions? Contact Us.