California Marijuana Laws

For a long time, Marijuana has been an illegal drug prohibited across the United States for its known hallucinogen properties. However, developments in national policy and change of laws promoted the legalization of marijuana in several states, including California. You can now use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, provided you adhere to the restrictions and age limits set for use. Despite the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, federal laws on marijuana have created an inconsistent arrest and prosecution system. Hence, you may find it confusing to follow federal rules that still categorize marijuana as an illegal drug, while California state laws allow controlled use.

As a result, we recommend seeking information on marijuana laws in California to understand the various restrictions that exist. Moreover, learning about the interplay between federal and state laws will also help you steer clear of legal repercussions. Among the different research processes you may undertake, consulting with a criminal lawyer is an excellent choice. With the insight of a criminal defense attorney, you get to understand the various elements of crimes related to marijuana and the penalties issued to defendants in violation. Moreover, your criminal lawyer will help you deal with an illegal marijuana charge by providing defenses and counterarguments to present during the trial. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney we dedicate our services to all who have been charged in Pasadena, California, for reliable and professional delivery of legal assistance and representation.

The Development of California Marijuana Laws

Previously, marijuana was an illegal drug that was sectioned as a Schedule I substance, meaning that the government considered it potentially addictive to its users. As a result, possessing or using marijuana in California for recreational or medicinal purposes was unlawful. However, as new scientific research developments progressed, medical professionals advocated using marijuana to manage several medical conditions.

Subsequently, California recognized marijuana use for medicinal purposes and passed a law legalizing its use. The legal approval of medicinal use is under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which received approval from proposition 215. As a result, people suffering from different ailments could use marijuana for illness management without worrying about previously imposed restrictions.

Most patients who received recommendations to begin treatment using marijuana were dealing with severe illnesses, including cancer, AIDS, and seizures caused by different conditions. Additionally, patients living with chronic pain conditions like repetitive migraines and severe arthritis also benefited from the authorization of marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

For example, if your doctor approved you to undergo marijuana therapy, you could cultivate, possess, and use the substance, provided you limited it to personal use. Moreover, you would have to possess a reasonable amount of marijuana, enough to manage your condition. The laws on medical marijuana are the same presently, to enable patients to receive the recommended medicinal benefits.

Eventually, the California state government also passed a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana with several restrictions. Proposition 64 was the approving statute that came to effect in 2016. Moreover, the Health and Safety Code came into effect to provide specific limits and penalties for people who violate the set rules. Under the statutory provision, different regulations apply for the possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana.

The different sections of the Health and Safety Code isolate various activities and groups of people affected by the laws. Hence, you want to understand the relevant provisions, especially if you currently face charges related to violation of marijuana laws. The various divisions of the Health and Safety Code include:

1. Possession of Marijuana in California

Section 11357 of the statute creates rules for possession of marijuana for recreational use in California. The primary restriction applied under section 11357 is the age restriction for possessing marijuana. Like in alcohol laws, only adults who are twenty-one years or more can have any amount of marijuana or concentrated cannabis. Hence, minors under eighteen years or adults under twenty one will face legal repercussions for possession.

The maximum amount of marijuana that an adult of over twenty-one years should possess is 28.5 grams in terms of quantity. Alternatively, you may also have hashish, a concentrated version of cannabis. The maximum amount allowed for possession is eight grams.

Additional restrictions apply to regulate the areas you may smoke or otherwise consume marijuana. Under the statutory regulations, you must smoke marijuana in private, meaning that you should be in your house or personal property. However, if you live in a rental, it is crucial to receive authorization from your landlord or rental manager before smoking marijuana on the premises.

With the restrictions in place, it becomes easier to hold the interests of non-users as well, as you will have to comply with the set regulations. For example, if you live in an apartment complex, the landlord may deny access to smoking privileges because of the potential exposure to minors living on the premises.

Similarly, your employer has the right to prohibit marijuana use at the workplace in the interest of workmates who do not use the substance recreationally. Therefore, the restrictions still play a significant role in controlling recreational use, despite legalization.

When you violate any of the laws provided in section 11357 of the Health and Safety Code, you will be subject to different penalties, depending on your case’s circumstances. The various crimes of marijuana possession are:

Possession of Over 28.5 grams of Marijuana or 8 grams of Concentrated Cannabis for People Over 18 Years

If you exceed the amount limits for marijuana or hashish as an adult above eighteen years, you will face a misdemeanor charge. Consequently, you may spend up to six months in county jail or pay a maximum fine of $500.

Possession of Over 28.5 grams of Marijuana or 4 grams of Concentrated Cannabis for People Under 18 Years

A person under eighteen years will face slightly different rules related to possessing hashish. If you are a minor, the amount limit for hashish possession is 4 grams. Thus, if you face arrest for violating the regulations, you will face infraction charges. The penalties include community service engagement and mandatory attendance of drug counseling sessions.

Possession of Marijuana or Hashish For Persons Under 21 Years

Additionally, you will face an infraction for possessing any amount of marijuana or concentrated cannabis as a minor under 21 years. Consequently, you will pay a fine penalty of up to $100 if you are above eighteen years. For people under eighteen years,  the penalties include mandatory drug counseling and community service.

Possession of Marijuana or Hashish in Any K-12 School Premises

Defendants who are above eighteen years and possess the marijuana or concentrated cannabis within any learning institution with children between kindergarten and twelfth grade commit a misdemeanor. The penalty issued is a fine payment of up to $250.

If the offender is under eighteen, he/she commits an infraction and will therefore have to attend drug counseling and perform community service.

2. Possession With Intent to Sell

While marijuana possession within the set limits is permissible, you will face legal consequences for intending to sell the substance. Under section 11359  of the Health and Safety Code, the sale of marijuana is only available to people who obtain licenses for sale. Additionally, the licensees should get a local and state permit before authorization to sell marijuana.

Usually, the prosecutor may present evidence against you in the trial to prove your intention to sell using various sources. For example, if the arresting officers retrieved large quantities of marijuana after apprehending you, the prosecutor may infer the intention to sell. Moreover, if you also possessed weighing scales and small plastic bags for packaging, the prosecutor can point out the intent to sell marijuana unlawfully.

Also, any weapons and excessive bundles of cash retrieved after your arrest are sufficient proof to persuade the judge of your unlawful intention to sell marijuana without a license. Therefore, if your matter proceeds to court, you will require a criminal defense lawyer’s services to develop strategic and persuasive counter-arguments that will help you avert severe penalties.

The offense attracts misdemeanor charges, with a penalty of up to six months in county jail. Alternatively, you may have to pay fines of up to $500 or face both penalties, at the discretion of the judge.

However, the offense can also attract felony charges depending on the case’s circumstances and previous convictions. The factors for the prosecutor to consider before initiating a felony charge trial are:

  • two or more past convictions related to possession of marijuana with intent to sell it unlawfully
  • possession of marijuana for an intentional sale to a minor under eighteen years
  • having a criminal record that includes violent offenses like murder

If your case includes any of the mentioned aggravated circumstances, you will face felony charges that attract harsher penalties. The jail sentence increases to sixteen months to three years in county jail.

3. Selling Marijuana to a Minor

Moreover, selling marijuana to a person under eighteen years is a severe offense that attracts felony charges. The crime elements also include using the minor to promote the sale and distribution of marijuana, contrary to the provisions under section 11361  of the Health and Safety Code. 

Subsequently, when you face arrest for the crime, the prosecutor must prove that you engaged in any of the various activities that amount to a violation of section 11361. Firstly, the prosecutor should produce enough evidence to prove that you sold marijuana or hashish to the minor.

To do this, he/she may include witness testimonies and footage displaying your activities. Other relevant and admissible evidence sources will also play a role in your conviction if the judge finds you guilty.

If you used the minor to transport or distribute the marijuana, you could also answer the charges. The instructions you give the minor may include selling the substance to identified individuals, giving the marijuana to a third party for distribution, or peddling the drugs to any interested people.

Since minors’ use for drug trafficking attracts danger for the child, the judge presiding over your case may impose the maximum penalty allocated to the offense, depending on the minor’s age.

If the child is below fourteen years, you will face a sentence lasting between three, five, or seven years in state prison. For cases involving minors above fourteen years, you will serve a prison sentence for three to five years.  It is important to remember that the judge can enhance or reduce the verdict at his/her discretion, based on the case circumstances. For example, if your matter involves the minor’s violent abuse, you will face the maximum prison sentence.

4. Driving In Possession of Marijuana

Moving around with marijuana in your car is an unlawful practice in California that attracts penalties under section 23222(b) of the California Vehicle Code. The section specifically prohibits the possession of quantities above an ounce of marijuana in the vehicle, translating to about 28.5 grams.

Despite the allowance to possess marijuana, the restrictions direct you to have it in your private house or establishment. Hence, since you may use your vehicle to access a public area, carrying marijuana in the car becomes unlawful.

Nevertheless, the offense does not attract serious repercussions, as it serves to remove violations based on the technicality of location. Hence, your right to possess marijuana lawfully remains. Generally, the only violation you will be answerable for having marijuana in your car instead of in your private home. Thus, the offense leads to a minor infraction, attracting a fine penalty of up to $100.

5. Cultivating Unauthorized Amounts of Marijuana

Since the passing of laws permitting the recreational use of marijuana, California citizens can now cultivate the plant-based on particular regulations. Section 11358 of the Health and Safety Code provides the rules you should follow, failure of which leads to misdemeanor or felony charges.

Firstly, you must be twenty-one years or older to grow marijuana, as the laws on possession also impose the same age limit. Additionally, you can only cultivate a maximum of six plants, based on health and safety standards.

Therefore, you want to ensure that your small personal garden does not hold any number above six cannabis plants to avoid possible arrest and prosecution. Also, the law requires you to grow the plants indoors to avoid drawing the attention of minors and other community members who should not have access to marijuana.

The requirements set under the health and safety Code recommend setting the plants away from a minor's reach, in a secure position. In doing so, you will ensure that any minor staying with you is not at risk of accessing or using marijuana if he/she is unsupervised.

If you are below eighteen years and face arrest for growing marijuana, you will receive an infraction. As a result, you will attend drug counseling, where a professional therapist will expound on the dangers of drug abuse, including marijuana.

Additionally, you may receive an order for community service where you will have to volunteer to perform various tasks in your community for a set number of hours. Persons above eighteen years will face a fine penalty for payments of up to $100.

For adults above twenty-one years, offenses related to the cultivation of marijuana involve having more than six cannabis plants for personal use. Usually, the violation amounts to a misdemeanor, leading to a maximum jail sentence of six months in county jail. Alternatively, you may have to pay fines of up to $500.

However, you can face felony charges for exceeding the set limit of cannabis plants for personal cultivation. The elements required to enter a felony charge in your case include:

  • Having past convictions involving violent felonies, including sexual offenses, murder, and vehicular manslaughter when driving under the influence of marijuana, among others
  • Previous convictions involving the violation of section 11358 of the Health and Safety Code
  • Violating California environmental laws by engaging in unlawful cultivation practices when growing marijuana
  • Committing offenses that require registration as a sex offender

With the imposition of felony charges, you are subject to harsher penalties that include sentences in state prison for three to seven years.

6. Sale of Marijuana Without a License

Proposition 64 also prohibits the sale of marijuana or concentrated cannabis without a valid license. Section 11360 lists the elements of crime related to the offense that may attract misdemeanor or felony charges.

Under the provisions, you commit an offense by selling or transporting marijuana for sale without a valid sale license. Hence, you must have involved yourself in any of the two activities before facing a criminal conviction.

However, you will not be guilty of violating section 11360 if you transported or gave another person marijuana or hashish within the legal amount limit of 28.5 grams or 8 grams, respectively. You will also evade prosecution for the offense if the recipient of marijuana within the amount limit was above twenty-one years.

Usually, you have to obtain a sale license from the Bureau of Marijuana Control. If you do not produce the certified permit upon request by an officer, he/she will form probable cause to arrest you for further investigations.

The offense often leads to misdemeanor charges, whereby you will face a jail sentence of up to six months in county jail. Alternatively, the judge may order a fine penalty of up to $1000.

If you are under eighteen years, your charges include an infraction resulting in community service and drug counseling from a professional therapist.

Like other marijuana violations, the offense of selling without a license may also amount to a felony in specific circumstances. A felony charge’s consequences may lead to an enhanced sentence of two to four years in state prison.

The aggravating factors that attract felony charges in your case include:

  • Selling or trying to sell marijuana without a license to a minor
  • Having a previous criminal record that involves the violation of section 11360
  • Previous convictions for violent felonies like rape and sex offenses against a minor below fourteen years

7. The Application of Federal Laws in California

Federal laws are regulations that apply across the United States, leading to uniform penalties upon conviction. Since federal laws have a universal application, they often supersede authority compared to state laws.

Federal law provisions have undergone minimal changes, meaning that they still place marijuana as a schedule I substance. The policies that govern national law developments highlight the potential dangers of addiction that marijuana poses, leading to the continued prohibition of medicinal or recreational use.

Since different states have already passed laws to legalize marijuana usage, citizens may face reasonable confusion regarding which rules to follow. Nevertheless, there are a few guidelines to help you avoid federal law repercussions in California.

First, it is crucial to understand that federal law prohibiting marijuana use applies throughout all federal facilities. They include federal buildings, courthouses, public airports, and national parks. Hence, using marijuana in any of these premises will attract legal consequences, despite having laws in California that legalize controlled marijuana possession.

Federal prosecutors handling your case may also use their discretion to decide whether to prosecute you under federal regulations after the arrest. Hence, you need a criminal defense attorney to help you face a fair trial by including the Health and Safety Provisions in the proceedings for your protection.

Federal law penalties include payment of a $1000 maximum fine or one year in federal prison for a first time offender. If you cultivate less marijuana to make sales, you may face up to five years in federal prison or pay fines of up to $250,000.

Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me

While marijuana laws exist to control the recreational use of the substance for people who meet the set requirements, several overlaps with the federal government system may lead to arrest and prosecution. Therefore, you need to understand the various regulations on possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana or hashish to avoid the possible legal consequences. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you will also find solutions to a pending case after the arrest. You want to hire a criminal defense lawyer who understands the criminal trial process and is diligent in preparing for your trial case.

Reaching out to the Pasadena Criminal Attorney team will set you on the right track as you face a violation of marijuana laws. Our years of experience in criminal defense has equipped our team with excellent skills to serve our clients in Pasadena, California. If you or your loved one is currently facing accusations related to breaking marijuana laws, call us today at 626-689-2277.

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