In California, many mistakenly assume that since medicinal and recreational marijuana use was legalized, you can't be prosecuted for using, possessing, selling, or manufacturing marijuana and marijuana-related products. But this is simply not the case.
While some actions regarding marijuana that weren't legal before now are, there are still many marijuana drug crimes on the books and that can still be enforced.
If you or your friend or family member have recently been arrested on a marijuana crime charge in Los Angeles or anywhere in Southern California, don't take the charge lightly - it can potentially result in very serious legal consequences. And don't fail to equip yourself with the most experienced marijuana crime defense lawyer possible.
At Leah Legal, we have successfully handled countless marijuana crime defense cases and won for our clients. We stand ready to do the same for you! Contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 818-484-1100 for a free consultation and immediate attention to your case.
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The Current "Marijuana Situation" in California
Californians voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in their state by passing Prop 64 during the 2016 election, and that new law went into effect on day one of 2018.
This means that adults in California age 21 and up can legally possess up to one ounce of "dried marijuana," up to 8 grams of "concentrated cannabis," and grow 6 marijuana plants - IF all of this is done purely for personal use.
Obviously, this does not mean that everyone can legally possess marijuana in any quantity they like and do whatever they please with it. And there are still enforceable and enforced penalties for many marijuana violations, some of which can be quite severe.
Also realize that Federal law still prohibits the very things that Prop 64 made legal - so it's even possible (if not likely) to be prosecuted in federal court for such activities.
And possessing marijuana with intent to sell it or actually selling it - without the proper state-issued license, is illegal and harshly punished.
Simple Possession of Marijuana
Anyone caught in actual (on your person), constructive (under your control), or joint possession of more marijuana or cannabis than legally allowed under Prop 64 is subject to a 6 month term in county jail and a fine of up to $500.
This is a misdemeanor "simple possession of a controlled substance" offense, but it does create a criminal record and could make it difficult for you to find future employment.
Also realize that you violate the law if you consume marijuana in public instead of on private property. And the owner of the property (if not yourself) can forbid you to use/smoke it there - so your landlord and/or employer can legally disallow you to use marijuana products on their property.
And you can't smoke marijuana anywhere where smoking tobacco is prohibited.
If you are under 21 and possess marijuana in any "usable" quantity, you commit an infraction that subjects you to a fine of $100; but if you are under 18, then you are assigned to community service and drug counseling instead.
Simple possession of marijuana on school grounds (elementary schools) is a misdemeanor offense, subjecting you to a maximum fine of $150. But if under 18, you would commit an infraction and be sentenced to counseling and community service.
Cultivation of Marijuana
You are currently allowed to grow up to 6 marijuana plants for personal use in California, if you are 21 or older. But you must follow a number of specific "rules" on how you grow it.
You generally have to grow marijuana indoors in incorporated areas but may be allowed to grow it outdoors in unincorporated areas, depending on local regulations.
You cannot grow marijuana legally except in a "secure location" inaccessible to minors.
If you are under 21 and grow marijuana, it is an infraction and you can be fined up to $100. Those under 18 who cultivate marijuana can be sentenced to community service and drug counseling.
If you are over 21 and cultivate more than six marijuana plants at once, it's a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. But for those with a serious past criminal record, this violation could be charged as a felony.
Possession of Marijuana For Sale
Unless you have a state and local license to sell marijuana in California, you can't legally sell it, and you can't legally possess it while having an intention to sell it.
Normally, possession of marijuana with intent to sell (without a proper license) is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
BUT if you have a violent crime on your past criminal record, it's your 3rd offense of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, or if you sold or attempted to sell marijuana to someone you knew was under 18 - then this crime is a felony, punishable by from 16 months to 3 years in jail.
Illegal Sale of Marijuana
Selling marijuana without the required licenses OR transport of marijuana with intent to illegally sell it, is a misdemeanor offense in California, punishable by 6 months of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
For those under 18, this crime is an infraction only, punishable by counseling and community service.
The California Bureau of Marijuana Control does not want to tolerate a black market in marijuana, so selling marijuana without a license is likely to be among the most severely enforced of all marijuana crimes in our state.
For those with previous serious felonies, those who commit a 3rd illegal sale and/or transport of marijuana offense, those who knowingly sell marijuana to a minor, or for those who illegally imported marijuana into California, sale/transport of marijuana is a felony. In such cases, it is punishable by 2 to 4 years in county jail.
Sale of Marijuana to a Minor
Under HSC 11361, it is a felony offense to sell marijuana to anyone under the age of 18. This state statute was completely unaffected by the partial legalization of marijuana under Prop 64.
It doesn't matter what amount of marijuana is involved - you can still be found guilty of HSC 11361, so long as it's a "usable" amount as opposed to "mere traces." But you could get a more severe sentence if large quantities are involved or if there are other aggravating factors.
Also, this statute covers the transport, giving away, preparation for sale, attempting to sell, and administering of marijuana or marijuana products to a minor.
Sale of marijuana to a minor and closely related violations are punishable by 3 to 5 years in state prison IF the child is between the ages of 14 and 18.
IF the child is under the age of 14, then the penalty is 3 to 7 years in prison.
Possession of Marijuana While Driving
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23222b, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with marijuana present. Driving under the influence of marijuana (a form of DUID, "doped driving") is a different offense - merely possessing marijuana or cannabis while driving is prohibited under VC 23222b.
This crime is a mere infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $100. But you don't want it on your record, so it's still worth hiring a good drug crimes defense lawyer to defeat a driving with marijuana charge.
What About Medical Marijuana Law in California?
Under Prop 215, passed by California voters in 1996, use of marijuana for medicinal purposes was legalized in our state. These provisions are found in Health & Safety Code Sections 11362.5 and following.
When it comes to medical marijuana, you are not subject to the one ounce possession limit that applies to recreational marijuana. Instead, you can possess as much as a doctor legally prescribes and as you "reasonably" need, based on the nature of your condition.
Additionally, you can cultivate larger amounts of marijuana based on needing it for medical purposes. And there is no restriction based on being under 21. But you need a doctor's orders to cultivate it in this way and you also need parental consent if you're under the age of 18.
A doctor can legally prescribe medical marijuana only for certain conditions. These include: chronic pain, arthritis, migraine headaches, seizures, AIDS, and certain forms of cancer.
Not only a patient but also a "primary caregiver" can grow, possess, and administer medical marijuana. A primary caregiver must be chosen by the patient to handle his/her medical marijuana and must be responsible for the health/safety of the patient.
But neither a primary caregiver nor a patient can legally sell marijuana or grow far more than is reasonably needed to care for the patient. And everything must be done in accordance with a physician's recommendations.
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
For medical marijuana use, there are special dispensaries that were set up after medical marijuana was legalized in California but before recreational marijuana was legalized.
Eventually, it's possible these dispensaries will be eliminated since you can buy marijuana anywhere. But it's not clear whether or not this will happen.
These dispensaries operate under very strict regulations and can only sell at cost or give away free medical marijuana to patients or their primary caregivers. Such operations must be non-profit.
You still need to have a doctor's prescription to legally get marijuana from a dispensary, and this particular marijuana is not allowed to go to recreational use.
Federal Marijuana Law
Under the US Controlled Substances Act, marijuana along with numerous other drugs are illegal to possess and use OR require a doctor's prescription.
Despite Prop 215 and Prop 64, Federal law trumps state law on these matters, so you can technically be arrested and prosecuted for even the smallest marijuana violation based on federal law. And the penalty for simple possession of any usable amount of marijuana (even under an ounce) is a $1,000 fine and up to 12 months in Federal prison.
However, the reality is that the Federal government is very unlikely to prosecute marijuana offenses that are not also violations of California state law. And they are unlikely to pursue all but the most egregious cases, where big-time drug traffickers are involved.
You are more likely to be charged with violating Federal marijuana laws when on Federal property, like post offices and national parks, or at public airports or HUD housing complexes. And use at a HUD residence can lead to Federal housing assistance being legally denied.
Additionally, possession of marijuana for sale or actual sale of marijuana are Federal felony offenses that can have severe immigration consequences if you are even charged with them, much less convicted of them. This can include deportation, not only of illegal aliens but also of legal immigrants since these are considered "aggravated" felonies under Federal law.
Contact Us Today for Immediate Assistance!
At Leah Legal, we understand the details of California's marijuana laws and also have great familiarity with the way marijuana violations are actually prosecuted and how to best counter and defeat the case of the prosecution.
We have served numerous clients in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California with top-tier defense against all manner of marijuana-related drug crime charges. We will know how to build you a solid defense and win the best possible outcome to your case.
For a free legal consultation, contact us 24/7/365 by calling 818-484-1100, and an expert legal analyst will be quick to assist you!