Marijuana laws in California

In this article, we will tell you everything you should know about Marijuana laws in California in 2020. We will give you an overview of the most important laws that every individual should know about.


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

What you should know about marijuana laws in California in 2020

Unlike other drugs, California’s marijuana laws allow its possession, use, and cultivation for recreational purposes. After possession of marijuana in small doses (up to 28.5 grams) was legalized, the laws have been more opened for marijuana lovers.

  • Since 1996, cannabis has been legal in the state for medicinal use.
  • In 2018 recreational use was authorized through Proposition 64 passed in 2016.
  • The law allows those over 21 years of age 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.

Not everything is positive for marijuana lovers: 

  • California marijuana laws that punish its sale, distribution, and trafficking remain in effect. 
  • Those who exceed the legal permitted dose face laws that remain very rigorous in their application.
  • Its consumption continues to have negative consequences for job search and is the subject of labor controversies. Workers’ complaints of discrimination are often filed in their workplaces
  • The state also binds commerce and charges a special tax of 15% and a tax on cultivation.
  • Penalties for this offense can be up to 6 months in prison in a county jail and a fine of up to $ 500. In addition to other accessory penalties such as providing community service or taking courses on drugs if you are a minor.

Legal sale of cannabis 

California marijuana sales licenses are issued by the Office of Cannabis Control (BCC).

selling cannabis in California
  • They are issued in favor of retail stores, micro-businesses, distributors and medical laboratories.  
    • Local governments are in charge of controlling and supervising these commercial establishments. 
    • To grow, consume or sell marijuana, companies must have a permit from the local jurisdiction as well. 
    • Counties or cities cannot prohibit the operations of companies with a state license. This is established in Regulation 5416 of the BCC in force since January 2019.
    • Anyone who qualifies 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 evidence of the legal market.

Some medical marijuana stores are exempt from sales and use tax. This is part of the changes to the 1996 law.

There are still communities in California where cannabis retail stores are not allowed. Despite the fact that state legislators have introduced some bills to compel these jurisdictions to allow it. 

Medical marijuana

California was the first state to approve marijuana for medicinal use in 1996. Since then, cannabis could be purchased legally on prescription and with a card issued by the county.

Since 2018 and with the approval of the law of 2016, general purchase and consumption is allowed.

General content of California marijuana laws

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

Penalties for marijuana-related crimes in California 

OFFENSEPENALTY FEEIMPRISONMENTMAX. FINE
Possession
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
Cultivation
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
Paraphernalia
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.
Various
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.

Possession        

Currently, up to a maximum of 28.5 grams of marijuana is allowed only to adults over the age of 21. Or also an ounce of flowers and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. 

With a valid ID that proves you are 21 years of age or older, you have the constitutional right to possess and use marijuana in California.

Proposition 64, which legalized the possession and use of marijuana for adults, allows you to have a certain personal dose. People over the age of 21 without needing to be part of the medical cannabis program can own up to 6 plants.

marijuana law for california

To take into account on possession:

  • Those under the age of 21 who do so commit an offense. 
  • Possession of more than 28.5 grams is considered a crime. This offense is punishable by up to 6 months in prison and / or a fine of up to $ 500. 
  • Even sometimes the amount of marijuana 28.5 grams or less can be a crime in certain circumstances. For example, that the person is 18 years old or older and the possession is discovered in a school.
  • The defendant could face an indictment and be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. The punishment would be up to 10 days in prison and / or a fine of up to $ 500. 
  • When the offender is under the age of 18, 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 up to 10 days is added.

Possession with intent to distribute

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

Cultivation

  • Across California, there are just over 200 legal cannabis producers. 
  • The most cultivated area of ​​marijuana in California are to the north in the so-called Emerald Triangle. It includes Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties where 60% of all American cannabis is produced. 
  • Until mid-2019, just over 1500 producers operated with provisional permits. 
  • Other counties where the crop has flourished since its legalization are also Santa Bárbara and Calaveras.  

Some municipal ordinances prohibit the home cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use. But generally it’s allowed in California. 

Obtaining a producer registration in these areas is extremely difficult. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is very jealous of the environmental impact of operations. So the demands are very high.

Trespass’s crime surrounding the cultivation of marijuana has grown since then. Police are constantly conducting raids and confiscations of illegal cannabis crops. 

Consumption in 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 domicile

Prior to Proposition 64, some 2,000 nonprofit cannabis distribution centers were operational in California. They offered small doses of medical marijuana.

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

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

medical marijuana in california

However, as of the end of 2019, there were just over 87th 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, licensed companies and dispensaries have continued to operate. 

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

Restrictions

  • 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 also exposed to civil penalties in an amount three times higher than the license fee. Both for each violation committed and for each day of illegal operation. 

Marijuana paraphernalia

Paraphernalia are the instruments used for the cultivation, harvesting, 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 manufacture paraphernalia for sale. Doing so commits a misdemeanor.
  • The penalties for any of these crimes include penalties of up to one year in a state prison. 
  • If a minor is involved in the crime, the penalty increases to one more year in prison. In addition to a fine of up to $ 1,000.

Hash and concentrates

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

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

The penalty for unauthorized manufacturing of concentrates is established by 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 manufacturing 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.

Various

  • 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 a minor to use drugs is also a crime. The penalty for this crime is also 3 to 7 years in prison. In addition there is a maximum additional fine of $ 150. 

Sometimes violations of the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act lead to the suspension of your driver’s license.

Driving under the influence of marijuana (DUI)

Driving under the influence of marijuana or any other controlled substance is equally penalized. In California, the law does not allow driving a motorized vehicle under the influence of marijuana unless you have a prescription. 

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

This topic is covered in detail in our section ” DUI lawyers in Los Angeles“.

Possible remedies for defendants of violating California marijuana laws

Violation of marijuana laws in California classified as misdemeanors may be eligible for certain benefits. One is probation, 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.
marijuana cultivation

Confiscation of assets

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

  • Vehicles.
  • Real estate properties.
  • Money.
  • Others.

Such seized assets become the property of the state. However, with the help of an expert drug attorney, you can reclaim these assets and prevent their confiscation. 

Especially when assets are not part of the process or are not used by the police as evidence. If the agency that seized the property does not send it to the Attorney General for consideration within the next 15 days, it can be returned. 

Otherwise, the person has a period of 30 days to appeal the intention of the Prosecutor to seize the property. The term is counted from the notification of the confiscation of the goods is received.

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:

Historical background of marijuana in California

Cannabis cultivation in California dates back to 1795 when it was cultivated as fiber and rope in the San José Mission during the government of Diego de Borica. Yerba crops spread to various areas of southern California. But most of the marijuana was grown on the missions.

By 1807, California produced 13,000 pounds of hemp (cannabis). And three years later, production had risen to 220,000 pounds. 

After the independence movement of Mexico -which California belonged to- from the Spanish crown, production was reduced. To the point of its near disappearance due to the elimination of subsidies for the cultivation of hemp.

history of marijuana cultivation

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

As for recreational cannabis, it is known that its pioneers included immigrants of Arab, Turkish and Armenian origin. The oldest record dates back to 1985 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 great fear. By 1911 the use of cannabis by the Hindu colonies was quite widespread. According to official documents of the time.


If you are facing charges of marijuana laws in California, feel free to request our services. The Los Angeles criminal lawyers of Lluis Law are experts in drug crimes with satisfactory results. 

Call now and request a consultation with any of our attorneys.