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In this article you will find everything new regarding marijuana laws in California in 2024. We will make a general review related to the current legislation that governs this matter and that everyone should know.

If you have been arrested for any of the crimes related to possession of controlled substances, we can help you. The Los Angeles drug possession lawyers at Lluis Law are experts with 50 years of combined experience in these cases.


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What You Should Know About Marijuana Laws In California In 2024

Unlike other drugs, marijuana laws in California allow recreational possession, use, and cultivation. Since the possession of marijuana in small doses (up to 28.5 grams) was legalized, the laws have become more flexible.

Here are some aspects related to marijuana that you should know:

  • Since 1996, cannabis has been legal in the state for medicinal use.
  • In 2018 recreational use was authorized through Proposition 64 approved in 2016.
  • The law allows those over the age of 21 to purchase, possess and consume up to 28.5 grams of marijuana. It must be done in your own residence or in an authorized establishment.
marijuana convictions in california

Limitations For The Use Of Marijuana In California

  • Marijuana laws that punish its sale, distribution, and trafficking remain in force. 
  • Those who exceed the permitted legal dose face laws that continue to be very rigorous in their application.
  • Its consumption continues to have negative consequences for job search and is the subject of labor disputes. Workers who use this drug often complain of discrimination in their workplaces
  • The state also levies the marijuana trade with a 15% excise tax and another cultivation tax.

The penalties established by the California marijuana laws for this offense can be up to 6 months in prison in a county jail and a fine of up to $500. Apart from other ancillary penalties such as community service or taking drug courses if being underage.

General Content Of Marijuana Laws In California

Below we explain some of the fundamental concepts about this California law. To better understand the basic concepts related to these marijuana laws in California, the following legal instruments should be reviewed:

Legal Sale Of Cannabis 

selling cannabis in California

Marijuana sales licenses in California are issued by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC).

  • These licenses are issued in favor of retail stores, micro-enterprises, distributors and medical laboratories:
    • Local governments are in charge of controlling and supervising these commercial establishments. 
    • To grow, consume, or sell marijuana, businesses must have a permit from the local jurisdiction as well. 
    • Counties or cities cannot prohibit the operations of businesses with a state license. This is established by BCC Regulation 5416 in force since January 2019.
    • Anyone who meets the requirements can apply for a license to sell medical marijuana through the BCC or even file complaints.  
  • Legalization and regulation have not prevented the emergence of an illegal market exempt from the requirements, taxes and tests of the legal market.
  • Some medical marijuana stores are exempt from paying sales and use tax. This is part of the changes to the 1996 law.
  • There are still communities in California where retail cannabis stores are not allowed. Although state legislators have introduced some bills to force these jurisdictions to allow it. 

Medical Marijuana

As already mentioned, California was the first state to approve marijuana for medical use in 1996. Since then, it has been possible to purchase cannabis legally with a doctor’s prescription and with a card issued by the county.

  • With the new laws in force since 2018, but approved two years earlier, general purchase and consumption is allowed.
  • However, at the federal level since 1970 marijuana for medical use was officially prohibited after the approval of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
  • At the same time, states have been adopting a more flexible legal position regarding the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis.

Penalties for marijuana-related crimes in California 

Personal use
Up to 1 oz.No penaltyNo
28.5 grams or less (over 18 years old) near school.Crime10 days$ 500
28.5 grams or less (under 18 years old).Crime10 days*$ 250
More than 28.5 gramsCrime6 months$ 500
With intention to distribute
Regardless of weightCrime6 months$ 500
*Detention center
Sell ​​or deliver
Any quantityCrime6 months$ 500
Give away 28.5 grams or less.No penaltyN / A$ 100
Accused of more than 18 years of age to a minor of 14-17 years of age.Crime35 yearsN / A
Accused of more than 18 years of age to a minor of 14 years of age.Crime37 yearsN / A
Up to 6 marijuana plantsNo penaltyNo$ 0
6 floors or moreCrime6 months$ 500
Hash and Concentrates
Up to 8 gramsNo penaltyNo$ 0
8 grams or more.Crime6 months$ 500
Unauthorized manufacturing.N / A16 months – 3 years$ 0
Manufacture of chemical products.N / A37 years$ 50,000
Sale, delivery, possession with intention / manufacture with intention.Crime1 year$ 0
Involve a minor 3 years younger than the accused.Crime1 year$ 1,000
Loss of equity
Vehicles and other property are subject to confiscation for violations of the controlled substances law.
Using a minor to illegally sell or transport marijuana is considered a felony and is punishable by a 3-7 year prison term. It is also a serious crime to induce a minor to use marijuana. This crime has a similar punishment (3 to 7 years in prison).
All violations of the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act are punishable by a fine of up to $ 150.
The illegal marketing of marijuana carries penalties for civil damages.
Loitering in a public place with the intention of committing certain controlled substance offenses is a misdemeanor.
A controlled substance conviction can result in suspension of driving privileges.


Currently, possession of up to a maximum of 28.5 grams of marijuana is allowed only for adults over the age of 21. Likewise, one ounce of flowers and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. 

It is required to have a valid ID showing that you are 21 years or older. Only then does a person have the constitutional right to possess and use marijuana in California.

Proposition 64, which legalized the possession and consumption of marijuana for adults, allows the possession of a certain personal dose. Those over 21 years of age do not need to be part of the medical cannabis program and can have up to 6 plants. 

Things To Keep In Mind About Possession

  • Anyone under the age of 21 who does so commits an offence. 
  • Possession of an amount greater than 28.5 grams is considered a crime. This offense is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. 
  • Sometimes even the amount of marijuana of 28.5 grams or less can be a crime in certain circumstances. For example, the individual is 18 years of age or older and the possession is discovered at a school.
  • The defendant could face indictment and be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. The punishment would be up to 10 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. 
  • When the accused is under 18 years of age, the offense is punishable by a fine of up to $250, if it is the first offense. A fine of up to $500 or confinement in a detention center for a period of up to 10 days is added.
marijuana law for california

Possession With Intent To Distribute

Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute more than one ounce of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor. The punishment is 6 months in prison and a $500 fine.


  • Across California there are just over 200 legal cannabis producers. 
  • The largest marijuana growing area in California is located to the north in the so-called Emerald Triangle. It includes Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties where 60% of all US cannabis is produced. 
  • As of mid-2019, just over 1,500 producers were operating with provisional permits. 
  • Other counties where the crop flourishes since its legalization are also Santa Barbara and Calaveras.  

In relation to the cultivation of marijuana in California, it should also be borne in mind that:

  • Some municipal ordinances prohibit the home cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use. Although it is generally allowed in California. 
  • Obtaining a producer registration in these areas is extremely difficult. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is very vigilant about the environmental impact of operations. So the demands are very high.
  • Trespass crime around marijuana cultivation has grown since then. Police are constantly raiding and confiscating illegal cannabis crops. 

Consumption On The Premises

In the West Hollywood sector, Los Angeles County, in July 2019, a cannabis license was approved. The permit was granted to the Lowell Herb Co. farm and business establishment.

This was the first in the whole country, much like the Amsterdam coffee shops that also sell yerba. Then came Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe where marijuana is sold for consumption. In speck, grass, drinks and food. 

There are even now cannabis sommeliers, who are known by the name of ‘budtenders’. So on, the cannabis industry has continued to grow in California and in other states of the country.

Retail And Home Sales

Before Proposition 64, around 2,000 nonprofit cannabis distribution centers were operating in California. They offered small doses of medical marijuana.

After the regulation, about 65% had to close due to high costs.

Now, most recreational cannabis retail stores have been banned. About 80% of California municipalities have disavowed its operation. 

marijuana cultivation

However, as of the end of 2019, there were just over 870 legal marijuana sellers in the state. A study by the United Cannabis Business Assn found that around 2,835 dispensaries were operating without a license. 

In addition, advertising-based home delivery services are promoted and performed. Following the coronavirus outbreak during 2020 and 2021, licensed companies and dispensaries continued to operate. 

State Governor Gavin Newsom declared these establishments and cannabis an essential business.


  • Selling marijuana without a valid license is also subject to civil and criminal penalties. 
  • The illegal sale of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 6 months in prison and fines of up to $500.
  • Violators are additionally exposed to civil penalties of three times the license fee. Both for each violation committed and for each day of illegal operation. 

Marijuana Paraphernalia

Refers to instruments used for the cultivation, harvest, processing, analysis, testing, storage, or use of cannabis. Although marijuana paraphernalia is considered legal in California, it is a crime to sell it without authorization.

  • No unauthorized person may sell, deliver, possess with intent to sell, or make paraphernalia for sale. Doing so means committing a misdemeanor.
  • The punishments for any of these crimes include sentences of up to one year in prison in a state jail. 
  • If a minor is involved in the crime, the sentence increases by one more year in prison. Plus a fine of up to $1,000.

Hash And Concentrates

Possession of up to eight grams of hashish, hashish oil and any other cannabis concentrate is legal. However, you should consider the following:

  • Exceeding that amount is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months in prison and a $500 fine.

The penalty for manufacturing concentrates without authorization is established according to the method used: 

  • For manufacturing through chemical synthesis, a maximum fine of $50,000 and a prison sentence of 3 to 7 years are imposed.
  • When the manufacture is carried out by means of presses, screens and any other method other than chemical synthesis, the prison sentence can be between 16 months and 3 years.

Presence Of Minors

  • The use of a minor for the sale or transportation of marijuana is considered a crime. The punishment for this offense ranges from 3 to 7 years in prison. 
  • Inducing drug use by a minor is also a crime. The penalty for this crime is also 3 to 7 years in prison. 
  • In addition, an additional maximum fine of $150 applies. 

Violations of the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act sometimes lead to driver’s license suspension.

Driving Under The Influence Of Marijuana (DUI)

Driving under the influence of marijuana or any other controlled substance is also penalized. In California, the law does not allow driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Unless you have the proper medical prescription. 

On the other hand, CVC Vehicle Code 23222(b) prohibits driving while in possession of marijuana. Particularly, if it exceeds the amount allowed by law.

DUI lawyers in los angeles

We address this issue in detail in our section “DUI Lawyers in Los Angeles”.

California Marijuana Statutes, Regulations And Ordinances

Regulation of the cannabis industry in the state seeks to ensure that:

  • Companies dedicated to its cultivation, treatment and commercialization operate safely.
  • The products sold guarantee their purity (without contaminants) and comply with the respective labeling to provide information to consumers.
  • The drug is not sold or supplied to minors.

The marijuana laws that govern this economic activity in California are divided into statutes, regulations, and ordinances. 

  • Statutes are approved by the state legislature, which is enacted by the state governor. For example, the Law for the Regulation and Safety of Cannabis for Medicinal Use and for Adults – MAUCRSA
  • Regulations are government agency interpretations of state laws (statutes). Eg the Department of Cannabis Control (BCC).
  • Ordinances are much more specific rules that cities and counties create about a matter governed by state law. They dictate the operating guidelines of a cannabis store (hours, location, resident complaints).

All of this legislation acts together to create an adequate legal framework for businesses and consumers.

How Do These Laws Operate In California and what are their purposes? 

1. MAUCRSA establishes the rules for:

  • The granting of licenses to cannabis companies.
  • Business supervision.
  • Compliance with legal guidelines by companies in the sector.

While there are specific laws that govern the marketing of cannabis, businesses must also comply with the other business, operational, and tax rules followed by other businesses in the state. 

2. The Health and Safety Code ensures compliance with cannabis regulations regarding:

  • Avoid consumption by those under 21 years of age.
  • The amount of drug allowed in a person’s possession.
  • Requirements for medical marijuana.

3. In relation to regulation, the Department of Cannabis Control (BCC) seeks to simplify cannabis regulations. 

Penalties Under Federal Marijuana Law

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) contained in Title 21 of the United States Code, classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Unlike California state law, federal law prohibits any medical use.

So if a person is charged with a marijuana-related crime, federal law will prevail. The sanctions provided for in said law are the following:

Simple possession of marijuana as a first offense is punishable by:

  • Fine of up to $1,000.
  • Up to one year in prison in a federal prison. 

While the crimes of cultivation, possession with the intention of selling and/or the sale of less than 50 pounds of marijuana or 50 plants is punishable by:

  • Up to five years in prison in a federal prison.
  • Fine of up to $250,000. 

Note: As the amount of marijuana seized increases, so do the fines and jail time.

Likewise, for federal drug crimes, the law contemplates additional punishments. For example, reimburse the government for expenses related to costs of investigating and prosecuting the accused. 

Possible Remedies For Those Accused Of Violating California Marijuana Laws

Violation of marijuana laws in California qualified as misdemeanors may be eligible for certain benefits. One is probation and the other is deferred entry of judgement

The following is possible for DEJ as long as certain conditions are met. For example:

  • There are no previous convictions of the accused for drug-related offenses.
  • The crime for which the accused is prosecuted did not involve violence.
  • There is no evidence of controlled substances or dangerous drugs.
  • Your probation was never revoked.
  • The person has not completed deferred entry within 5 years after the crime occurred.
  • There are no convictions for serious crimes “within the 5 years prior to the alleged commission of the crime.”

While probation requires that the accused person:

  • Participates in a drug education or treatment program determined by the court.
  • Has not been previously convicted of a felony involving a controlled substance.
california 3 strikes law

Do you know what the consequences of the California 3 strikes law are?


Asset Confiscation

A conviction for cultivation, sale, or possession with intent to distribute marijuana results in forfeiture of personal property under the CSA: 

  • Vehicles.
  • Estate.
  • Money.
  • Others.

These seized assets become the property of the state. However, with the help of an experienced drug attorney, you can reclaim these assets and prevent them from being confiscated. 

Especially when the assets are not part of the process or are not used as evidence by the police. If the agency that seized the assets does not forward them to the Attorney General for consideration within 15 days, they may be returned. 

Otherwise, the individual has 30 days to appeal the Prosecutor’s intention to seize the assets. The term is counted from the receipt of the notification of the confiscation of the goods.

Additional Limitations 

Marijuana laws in California also establish additional limitations for the use and possession of this drug. Even if you are a person over 21 years old. 

  • Limitations of smoking or consuming cannabis in public in unauthorized places. 
  • Limitations on the use of marijuana while driving a vehicle: Unless the container that contains it is sealed and the driver who transports the drug has a medical permit. Or that whoever consumes it travels as a passenger in the vehicle.

These state laws can change at any time, so the limitations can be extended or reduced. 

If you want to learn more about marijuana laws and other drug charges in California on our website we have extensive information:

What’s New Regarding Marijuana And Other Drug Laws In California?

A bill to decriminalize the possession and use of various psychedelic drugs is currently sitting in the California legislature. Among them, psilocybin and ayahuasca. 

The discussion of the legal proposal could be addressed again this year 2024, according to its sponsor, Senator Scott Wiener. 

On the other hand, the governor of California signed a bill to authorize that patients with serious or terminal illnesses can be treated with medical marijuana in hospitals.

New Cannabis Bills Coming Into Force In 2022

  • About a dozen of the 30 marijuana bills before the California legislature are now law.
  • Among these bills is one that went into effect on January 1 and allows cannabis beverages to be sold in glass bottles.
  • Another bill allows the state of California to impose fines of up to $30,000 on those who encourage illicit cannabis businesses.
  • Assembly Bill 45 allows the sale of compounds such as CBD can be sold as dietary supplements or as ingredients in foods, beverages, cosmetics, and pet food outside of licensed marijuana stores if they come from industrial hemp growers registered in the state.
  • There is a regulatory framework contained in Assembly Bill 45 for those products derived from industrial hemp. This plant does not contain THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
  • One of these products is CBD, which is used to relieve ailments, inflammation and calm anxiety. They have the peculiarity of making the person not feel drugged when consuming it.
  • The approved law allows the sale of the CBD compound in:
    • Food and drinks. 
    • Cooking ingredients.
    • Dietary supplements and cosmetics
    • Pet food.

Before, however, the Department of Cannabis Control must issue a report before July 1 “to the Governor and the Legislature that outlines the necessary steps for the incorporation of hemp products into the cannabis supply chain.”

Removal Of The Ban On Hemp

Likewise, the law removes the ban on smokable hemp. California hemp producers will be able to sell their production in 40 other states of the union where these products are allowed.

While current Senate Bill 311, compassionate use of medical cannabis, prohibits smoking or vaping cannabis, it nevertheless allows it to be used in food and beverages, tinctures, and capsules. 

medical marijuana in california

If I Am Facing a Marijuana Charge Will I Have Problems With My Housing?

There are many chances that this could happen. Individuals who receive assisted living benefits from the federal government could get their program denied or suddenly stopped, as well as other benefits including food stamps.

The regulations that govern the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) establish that local housing authorities may impose some type of restriction in this regard. 

How Do These Crimes Affect Immigration Processes?

The consequences of a marijuana possession or sale charge are very serious. Remember that drug-related crimes are considered serious (mostly felonies) by law. They are part of the so-called deportable offenses.

Regardless of whether the person has been convicted of state or federal drug charges. A conviction for marijuana crimes can lead to deportation. 

If you are under unlawful presence in the USA and have problems with the law due to a crime with controlled substances, contact us. We have the best immigration lawyers in Los Angeles, experts and recognized in the criminal area.

Are Federal Marijuana Lawsuits Common?

No. But this does not mean that they do not occur. If the drug is cultivated for personal use it is highly unlikely. On the other hand, if a person is accused of cultivating, transporting and selling marijuana in large quantities, yes.

The US Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the time rescinded rules that prevented the prosecution from pursuing people accused of marijuana use. 

This is in accordance with California state law, so this matter was left to the discretion of prosecutors. Unless the crime related to California marijuana laws is committed on federal land. 

In Which Places Is The Consumption Of Marijuana Not Allowed?

The use of cannabis is not allowed on federal properties located in California, including:

  • National Parks
  • Monuments
  • Public airports
  • Federal buildings
  • Federal courts
  • Mail offices.

Who Can Legally Use Medical Marijuana?

The California Compassionate Use Law (CUA) provided for in California Health and Safety Code 11362.5, allows the use of marijuana in medical treatment. Especially in patients with diseases such as:

  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Anorexy
  • Glaucoma
  • Cachexia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Migraines
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures
history of marijuana cultivation

What If I Have A Prior Conviction For A Criminal Offense And I’m Prosecuted For A Marijuana Charge?

An individual who sells or transports for sale marijuana without a permit and who has been convicted of any of the following crimes will be charged with a felony:

  • Violent crimes such as: murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence.
  • Sexual crimes. For example, sexual assault, rape, lewd acts with a minor, and any other offense that leads to registration as a sex offender.
  • Vehicular manslaughter driving while intoxicated.

Also individuals with:

  • Two or more prior convictions for the sale or transportation of marijuana. 
  • Prior conviction for selling or offering marijuana to minors under the age of 18; OR
  • Individuals charged with importing into California more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or 4 grams of concentrated cannabis; or attempt to transport this amount of drug out of the state.

Such criminal record added to the crime of transportation or sale of marijuana lead to sentences of two, three or four years in prison.

What Are The Regulations For Working Or Starting A Cannabis Business In California?

Whether you work or want to open a cannabis business, it is essential to take into account the following current regulations established by the BCC:

Content Of The Current Cannabis Regulations (DCC)

Cannabis business regulations set guidelines for:

  • Requirements that must be submitted when applying for an operating license.
  • Rules of administration and operation of a cannabis company.
  • Permitted cannabis products, types and use of ingredients in their manufacture.
  • Packaging and labeling standards.
  • Product tests before going on sale.
  • Sanctions and measures for companies that break the rules.

What Are Equity Ordinances? 

There are equity programs in California that are designed to support the fight against drugs and create a more inclusive cannabis market. The counties and cities that have incorporated them into their legislation for this purpose are:

How equity ordinances help applicants are varied and include: 

  • Streamlining of application processes.
  • Assistance during the licensing process.
  • Direct financial support to the company.
  • Support with the operation and operation of the business.

Illegal Cannabis Market In California

Despite the flexibility of marijuana laws in California and the regulation of possession, use, and sale of the drug, the illegal cannabis market remains strong compared to the legal market. Actually, It duplicates it.

  • The illegal cannabis market in the state moves around 8 billion dollars annually. That is, twice the volume of legal sales of cannabis.
  • Cannabis businesses operating in the state feel they are at a disadvantage in regards to the black market. So much so that they have threatened to withhold taxes if the regulatory authorities do not find a solution.
  • Cannabis business owners have asked the authorities to eliminate the cultivation tax to reduce their costs.
  • At the same time, the big corporations in the cannabis business are gobbling up smaller businesses.
  • There is still a gray area in marijuana laws. Fundamentally because of the great differences between federal laws and state and local legal regulations.

History Of Marijuana In California

Cannabis cultivation in California dates back to 1795, when the herb was grown for fiber and rope in the San José Mission. It was just during the government of Diego de Borica, the seventh Spanish governor of that territory.

  • Yerba cultivation spread to various areas of southern California. But most of the marijuana was grown in the missions.
  • By the year 1807, California was producing 13,000 pounds of hemp (cannabis). Three years later, in this territory belonging to Mexico, production had risen to 220,000 pounds. 
  • After the Mexican independence movement from the Spanish crown, production was reduced. To the point of almost disappearing with the elimination of subsidies for hemp cultivation.

Cannabis Background For Recreational Use 

However, some missions continued to cultivate cannabis for their own use. Later Russian settlers continued to farm at Fort Ross until 1841 when the station was abandoned.

  • As for cannabis for recreational use, it is known that among its pioneers were immigrants of Arab, Turkish and Armenian origin. 
  • The oldest record dates back to 1895 when the plant began to be used to make hashish.
  • In other states of the union the use of hemp was more restricted. Its use by blacks and Hispanics aroused much fear. 
  • By 1911 the use of cannabis by the Hindu colonies was quite widespread. According to what is recorded in the official documents of the time.

If you are facing marijuana law charges in California, do not hesitate to seek our services. The criminal lawyers in Los Angeles at Lluis Law are experts in drug crimes with satisfactory results. 

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