This article was updated: Feb. 9th, 2023
Cannabis is legal for adults in the state of California … to a degree. The reality is that you can still get into legal trouble with marijuana in California, and if that happens, you’re going to need advice and representation from an experienced Long Beach criminal defense attorney.
With a number of rules and restrictions attached, the private recreational use of marijuana by California adults became legal in 2018. What rules and restrictions do users need to be aware of? What are the penalties for violating those rules and restrictions?
And how will a California defense lawyer help you if you are arrested and charged with a marijuana violation? If you keep reading, you’ll learn the answers to those questions and more in this brief introduction to the current pot laws and your rights here in the state of California.
WHAT ARE CALIFORNIA’S RULES FOR RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA?
Adults who are 21 and over may possess no more than an ounce of dried marijuana flakes and buds and no more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis. Adults may also cultivate no more than six plants for private use, with some restrictions.
Landlords, for example, must consent to any marijuana consumption or cultivation by tenants. Adults who use or grow the weed in excess of the permitted legal quantities may be charged with a misdemeanor which is punishable upon conviction by six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Anyone under 21 years old who possesses pot may be charged with an “infraction.” If the offender is 18 years old or above, the sentence is a fine. If the offender is under 18, he or she may be ordered to undergo drug counseling and perform community service.
Marijuana and concentrated cannabis are not legal on the premises of any K-through-12 school in California. Convicted adult violators can be fined $250; those under age 18 are subject to drug counseling and community service.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR TRANSPORTING MARIJUANA?
You need to know the possession and cultivation rules, but the dominant pot-related legal issue since legalization has been the transportation of marijuana. The California Highway Patrol routinely intercepts illegal marijuana shipments – and it intercepts more now than ever before.
Some California counties and municipalities do not permit cannabis dispensaries in their communities. Some counties and municipalities – at first – also banned the transport of cannabis products within their jurisdictions.
These rules compelled some pot consumers to travel long distances to buy the product legally. For medicinal users, a long drive may not always be possible, so medicinal pot users were tempted to “stock up,” visit several dispensaries, and transport more pot than the law allows.
WHAT IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH POSSESSION WITH THE INTENT TO SELL?
Relief for these consumers emerged in early 2019 when the California Bureau of Cannabis Control determined that licensed marijuana delivery operations may transport cannabis to the residence of anyone who has ordered it legally in this state.
But if you’re not authorized to transport cannabis products commercially, you may be charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana if you carry more than the legal limit for personal use.
For adult defendants, the possession of marijuana with the intent to sell – without a license – is usually a misdemeanor charge that is punishable upon conviction with up to six months in jail and/or a fine of as much as $500.
WHEN IS POSSESSION WITH THE INTENT TO SELL CHARGED AS A FELONY?
However, the possession of marijuana with the intent to sell – and without a license – is a felony if any of these conditions apply:
- The defendant has a previous conviction for a violent felony such as (but not limited to) murder, a sexually violent offense, a sex crime against a minor under 14, any sex crime that requires sex offender registration, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
- The defendant has at least two prior convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession with the intent to sell.
- The defendant intended to sell or in fact sold marijuana to a person under the age of 18.
A conviction on any of these charges is punishable by up to three years behind bars.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA USERS?
The rules are somewhat different for approved medical marijuana users in California. They may, with a doctor’s approval, possess as much cannabis as their medical condition reasonably requires.
Those under the age of 21 may use and grow medical marijuana only if they have a doctor’s approval. Anyone under the age of 18 must also have the consent of a parent or guardian.
WHAT ABOUT FEDERAL MARIJUANA LAWS?
Marijuana and marijuana products remain illegal under federal law, which makes no distinction between recreational and medicinal use. Law enforcement authorities often use federal laws to prosecute those possessing, cultivating or distributing larger quantities of marijuana.
But even with a quantity of pot that’s legal in California, you can be charged under federal law with marijuana possession if you carry pot across a state line or onto federal lands such as a federal park, forest, or military base.
What’s more, in order to convict you in a federal marijuana possession case, the prosecution doesn’t even have to prove that you knew you were on federal land.
WHAT ARE THE FEDERAL PENALTIES FOR MARIJUANA VIOLATIONS?
Marijuana offenses are severely punished by the federal courts. For example, the first offense for simple possession is punishable upon conviction with a $1,000 fine and a year in a federal prison.
Possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, cultivation, and the sale of under fifty pounds or fewer than fifty plants is punishable upon conviction with a $250,000 fine and up to five years in a federal prison.
As you can guess, in the federal courts, fines and incarceration periods are increased for larger quantities of pot and for second and subsequent convictions.
HOW WILL A LONG BEACH DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?
If you are charged with any marijuana-related offense in southern California, understand that a charge is not the equivalent of a conviction. Like any other criminal case, in order to convict you, a prosecutor must still prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you are guilty.
That’s where an experienced Long Beach criminal defense attorney can help. If you are charged with any violation of the pot laws, your attorney will cast doubt on the government’s case against you and will advocate aggressively on your behalf for the justice you need and deserve.
Whether you use pot for medical reasons or for recreational reasons in California, there’s no need to break the law. Adults over the age of 21 who adhere to the rules should have nothing to worry about if they are privately consuming marijuana in their homes.
But if you are charged with a violation of the marijuana laws, you must have a good defense lawyer’s help at once. If you’ve been arrested, do not wait to make the call. Do it as quickly as you can. You’ll need a good lawyer’s help, and having that help is your right.