California Marijuana Laws

Marijuana and cannabis are terms that refer to the plant with the scientific name of Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Ruderalis. It comes in different forms: as dried leaves, hemp, or as oil. It can be smoked, used in recipes, swallowed as additive to food or taken like any medicinal syrup.

Prior to 1996, possession of marijuana in any amount was illegal but now adults aged 21 or over may purchase, possess and consume up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis in their home or in an establishment for consumption. Licensing to sell and produce recreational marijuana and imposition of taxes on cultivation and sale of marijuana began in January 2018.

What acts are still penalized relative to marijuana or cannabis?

Do not think that simply because marijuana has been legalized for medicinal purposes that possession, use, manufacture, cultivation, transport, purchase and sale of marijuana is legalized as well. There are still some acts relative to marijuana that are still defined and penalized as crimes.

  • Section 11357 of the California Penal Code provides the penalty for possession of marijuana that exceeds 28.5 grams or possession of concentrated cannabis that exceeds 8 grams by non-adults.
  • Persons over 18 years of age who possess marijuana exceeding 28.5 grams or concentrated cannabis exceeding 8 grams may be imprisoned in county jail for up to 6 months and be fined up to $500.
  • Selling cannabis without a license is penalized as a misdemeanor which carries a penalty of imprisonment of up to 6 months in jail or the payment of a fine. A separate civil penalty of up to three times the amount of a license fee will also be imposed.
  • Persons over 18 who possess not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis within school grounds or during school hours or during school-related programs, they shall be found guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalty is a fine of not more than $250 on the first offense. On a second or subsequent offense, the penalty is $500. They will also be required to complete eight hours of drug education or counseling and up to 40 hours of community service on their first offense and on their second offense, they shall be required to complete ten hours of drug education or counseling and up to 60 hours of community service.

What penalties may be imposed on persons under the age of 18 if they are caught in possession of less than 28.5 grams of cannabis or less than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis?

Under Section 11357 (a), a minor commits an infraction. On the first offense, a person under 18 may be required to complete four hours of drug education or counseling and up to 10 hours of community service. On a second or subsequent offense, they are also required to complete six hours of drug education or counseling and up to twenty hours of community service.

What happens when a person is over 18 but under 21 and they are caught in possession of more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or less than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis?

They are guilty of an infraction. They will be required, on their first offense, to complete eight ours of drug education or counseling and up to forty hours of community service. For a second or subsequent offense, they shall complete 10 hours of drug education or counseling and up to 60 hours of community service. They shall also be imprisoned in a county jail for not more than six months and pay a fine of not more than $500.

What is the penalty for selling synthetic cannabinoid compounds or derivatives?

This is a misdemeanor and the penalty is imprisonment in county jail for a period not exceeding six months or payment of a fine not exceeding $1000, or both fine and imprisonment.

What is the penalty of using synthetic cannabinoid compounds or derivatives?

Use of synthetic cannabinoid compounds or derivatives is a public offense. It is penalized with a fine not exceeding $250 for the first offense. For the second offense can be an infraction with a penalty of a fine not exceeding $250 or a misdemeanor with a penalty of imprisonment in county jail not to exceed six months, a fine not to exceed $500 or both. A third or subsequent offense is a misdemeanor punished with imprisonment not to exceed six months in county jail and a fine not exceeding $1000.

What is the penalty for cultivating, planting, harvesting, drying or processing cannabis?

Note that under section 11362.2 of the California Penal Code, a person may plant, cultivate, harvest, dry or process no more than six living marijuana plants if the planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying or processing is in a private residence, upon the grounds of a private residence, in a locked space or in an area not visible from a public place.

What is punished is the planting, cultivation, harvesting, drying or processing of cannabis which are not subject to the restrictions provided in 11362.2 such as:

  1. When under section 11358 of the California Penal Code, a person under 18 commits the acts of cultivation and processing shall be punished for an infraction and upon the first offense committed. They will be required to complete eight hours of drug education or counseling and up to 40 hours of community service. If they commit these acts on a second or subsequent offense, they shall be required to complete ten hours of drug education or counseling and up to sixty hours of community service.
  2. If the person is over 18 but under 21 and he or she plants, cultivates, harvests, dries or processes not more than six living cannabis plants, they shall be punished for an infraction and be fined of not more than $100.
  3. If the person is over 18 and he or she cultivates, plants, harvests, dries or processes more than six living cannabis plants, they will be punished with imprisonment of not more than six months in county jail or with a fine of not more than $500 or both fine and imprisonment.

What is the penalty for possession of cannabis for sale?

Under section 11359, a person under 18 who possessed cannabis for sale shall be punished for an infraction. Upon the first offense committed, they will be required to complete eight hours of drug education or counseling and up to 40 hours of community service. If they commit these acts on a second or subsequent offense, they shall be required to complete ten hours of drug education or counseling and up to sixty hours of community service.

If the person charged with possession for sale of cannabis is over the age of 18, the penalties shall be determined in accordance with the rules of trial court sentencing contained in subdivision (h) of Article 1170 of the California Penal Code. This means that when imprisonment is imposed as a penalty, the imprisonment must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and uniform to the sentences of other offenders who committed the same offense under similar circumstances.

Subdivision (h) of Article 1170 provides that when the jail term is not specified in the offense, the imprisonment shall be for 16 months or two or three years.

What is the penalty for transporting, importing, selling, distributing or giving away cannabis?

  1. If the person is under 18, they shall be punished for an infraction which is punished:
  • For the first offense committed, they will be required to complete eight hours of drug education or counseling and up to 40 hours of community service.
  • For a second or subsequent offense, they shall be required to complete ten hours of drug education or counseling and up to sixty hours of community service.
  1. A person over the age of 18 shall be punished with imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed six months or by a fine of not more than $500 or both fine and imprisonment.

The penalty shall be increased to two, three or four years if

  • the person has had one or more convictions for a serious felony for which there is a five-year enhancement.
  • the person has had one or more prior convictions for a violent sexual felony.
  • The person has had a two or more prior convictions for transporting, importing, selling, distributing or giving away cannabis.
  • The person knowingly sold, attempted to sell or offer to sell cannabis to a person under 18.
  • What is transported, imported, sold, distributed or given away is more than 25.8 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis.
  1. Under Section 11361, the penalty shall be imprisonment in state prison for three, five or seven years if:
  • a person over 18 hires a minor to transport, carry, sell, give away, prepare for sale or peddle cannabis
  • a person sells or induces a minor under 14 to use cannabis

When can I be penalized for manufacturing cannabis?

Under Section 11379.6 (a), a person who manufactures, converts, produces, derives, processes or prepares cannabis by chemical extraction or chemical synthesis shall be penalized with imprisonment for three, five or seven years and fined not exceeding $50,000.00. This is penalized because synthesis of cannabis by chemical extraction or chemical synthesis involves the use of highly volatile substances such as butane that puts the public at risk of explosion or fire.

What other punishable acts are related to the smoking or ingesting of cannabis or cannabis products?

Under Section 11362.3, the following are punishable:

  1. Smoking or ingesting cannabis in a public place;
  2. Smoking cannabis or cannabis products in a non-smoking area;
  3. Possessing, ingesting or smoking cannabis within 1000 feet of a school, daycare center or youth center while there are children present in those areas.
  4. Smoking or ingesting cannabis while operating a vehicle
  5. Possessing an open container of marijuana while operating or riding as a passenger in a vehicle.

The penalties for these acts are provided in Section 11362.4. These acts are infractions punishable by not more than $100 fine and if the person found guilty of these acts are under 18, they shall be required to complete four hours of a drug education program or counseling and up to 10 hours of community service. A person over 18 who commits these acts are guilty of an infraction which shall be punished with a fine of not more than $250.

Are you facing a charge relating to the possession, use, transport, sale or manufacture of cannabis? If you need legal assistance or legal information, call and speak with any of the Criminal Defense lawyers from Ramiro J. Lluis Law Office. They can help.

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