Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm offers criminal defense services to residents of Vista and the larger North County, California area. Our law firm is the go-to firm for anyone seeking legal services and representation in court for criminal charges. If you are facing criminal charges and need clarification on understanding California Marijuana laws feel free to contact us today.

Due to the passage of Proposition 64, in November 2016, recreational use of Marijuana was legalized on January 1, 2018. The Proposition sets out the legal limits within which you can use, possess, cultivate, sell, or transport marijuana within the state of California. It also defines laws on concentrated cannabis, driving with marijuana, medical marijuana, and laws against the sale of marijuana to a minor. 

It is of paramount importance to note that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. It is classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of the United States, and as such, you can be charged by federal prosecutors for use, possession or sale of marijuana even if you comply with California marijuana laws depending on the jurisdiction you are in and the circumstances. It is, however, unlikely that in California you will be charged for possession, use, or sale of marijuana by federal prosecutors in accordance with the state laws.

Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm attorneys will elaborate further on the details of your case during your free case evaluation. In the following paragraphs, we will provide an overview of California marijuana laws.

Health & Safety Code 11357- Simple Possession

The Health and Safety Code 11357 establishes rules for simple possession of marijuana under the California marijuana law. It allows possession of up to an ounce or 28 grams of dried marijuana or concentrated cannabis also called hashish totaling to 8 grams at a time, for personal use, to people aged 21 years and above. In case you are under the age of 18 and you are arrested of marijuana possession, you may be charged with an infraction with consequences of counseling on drug use and community service. If you are between the ages of 18-21 years, you may be issued a fine of up to a hundred dollars ($100). It is also an infraction to possess anything above an ounce of dried cannabis or anything above 4 grams of concentrated cannabis for defendants under the age of 18 years and may be sentenced to supervised drug rehabilitation and service to the community. Lastly, being in possession of cannabis in a k-12 school for defendants aged 18 years and below is an infraction as well, attracting similar penalties as other infraction offenses above.

Misdemeanor offenses occur when defendants aged 18 years and above are arrested and charged for the possession of marijuana weighing 28.5 grams and above or concentrated cannabis measuring 8 grams and more. Such offenses are penalized by a fine of five hundred dollars ($500) or 6 months incarceration in county jail. It is also a misdemeanor offense to possess marijuana or concentrated cannabis in a k-12 school for defendants aged 18 years and older whose penalty is two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) for a first offense.

Health and Safety Code 11358 - Cultivation

In California, you are allowed under the Health and Safety code 11358 HS of cannabis cultivation. You are allowed to grow up to six plants of marijuana, as established after the amendment of Proposition 64. It also states that you can only grow your marijuana plants indoors, but if you live in an unincorporated zone, you might be permitted to grow your plants outside. This small scale farming should be carried out in a well- secured zone, inaccessible to minors.

It is prohibited for people aged 21 years and below to grow whichever amount of marijuana. If you are under 21 years but still above 18 years, and you grow cannabis, you will be committing an infraction offense punishable by a fine of not over a hundred dollars ($100), or a sentence to a drug counseling program or community service for defendants aged 18 years and below.

Adults, or people aged over 21 years old, are prohibited from cultivating and processing over 6 plants of marijuana at a time. The Violation of the California Health and Safety Code 11358 is punishable as a misdemeanor where if you are convicted, you may get jailed for a maximum of 6 months in a county facility or up to five hundred dollars ($500) in court fines. This crime is also punishable as a felony for the following groups of people;

  • Defendants with a trail of serious criminal convictions,
  • People registered as sex offenders as required by law,
  • People who have ever been convicted for violation of this law more than twice,
  • Violators of laws set to protect the environment regarding marijuana cultivation.

Health and Safety Code 11359- Possession with Intent to Sell

Businesses that obtain state and local licenses are legalized to sell marijuana, but only within the set codes in the licenses. Hence, you can legally sell marijuana in California, after the passage of Proposition 64 with the right licenses. If found with marijuana and it is assumed that you have intentions to sell it, you will be charged under the California possession of marijuana with intent to sell under Health and Safety Code 11359.

Often, this crime is charged as a misdemeanor, with an at least six months jail sentence, and/or a five hundred dollars ($500) fine. It is, however, a felony to possess marijuana with an aim to sell it to people who have pending criminal proceedings against them for serious offenses, for example, murder. Moreover, it is a felony possession of marijuana with intent to sell, for defendants who have had two or more earlier sentences for this crime. Finally, if you are arrested for seeking to sell cannabis to a person below the age of 18 years, whether the transaction goes through or not, you will face legal proceedings for felony violation of Code 11359. If convicted of this felony, you get 16 months, two, or three years in a county facility.

To prosecute you under this code, prosecutors have to show to the court that you actually had an intention to sell marijuana without a license. To do this, prosecutors will present circumstantial evidence such as;

  • The large amounts of cannabis that you allegedly had with an intention to sell,
  • Any item used for processing, packaging, scaling or branding your products such as weighing scales,
  • Marijuana packaged in too many small quantities,
  • Any weapon and/or large amounts of cash,
  • An Officer’s testimony that they believed the marijuana you had was for sale.

Health and Safety Code 11360 - Selling Marijuana without a License

The Health and Safety Code 11360 criminalizes the acts of selling or transporting cannabis for sale without the authority of the Bureau of Marijuana Control, the body established by the California marijuana law to regulate and license the sale of Marijuana within California. A violation of this code attracts a misdemeanor charge, where if you are convicted, you face 6 months in jail or a thousand dollars ($1000) in fines.

Even if you are you were transporting 28.5 grams or less or just 8 grams of concentrated cannabis for sale without a license, you would still be held for going against the Health and Safety Code 11360 HS, where in this case, you face an infraction charge. It is also an infraction for a minor, that is, a person aged 18 years and below to violate the California selling of marijuana without a license law.

Violating the Health and Safety Code 11360 for people with a string of entries in their criminal records after a conviction of serious violent crimes and sex offenses, people breaking this code more than twice, or those who sold or attempted to vend cannabis to a minor is considered a felony under the California cannabis laws where if found guilty, you will be held in jail for 2, 3, or 4 years.

Transporting marijuana for personal use or gifting adult friends marijuana within the set legal limits and not for sale, is however not illegal.

Health and Safety Code 11361 - Selling Marijuana to a Minor

As we mentioned above, the act of selling marijuana to a person of 18 years or under is a serious crime and charged as a felony. This is established by the California Marijuana laws code 11361 - HS, which also prohibits the use of a minor’s services in any part of a marijuana sale process such as processing, transporting or delivering, any amount of cannabis. This law was still in effect even before Proposition 64 was passed. The sentence for this charge is three (3) to seven (7) years if the minor is below fourteen (14) years or 3-5 years if they are over 14 years, but still under 18 years. The sentence for this felony is served in California state prison and not county jail.

Concentrated Cannabis (hashish)

Concentrated cannabis, also called Hashish is a drug extracted from the resin of the cannabis plant. It is legally recognized as marijuana, thus, if you are of twenty-one years (21) or over you can lawfully possess concentrated cannabis in California for personal use, but only up to 8 grams of it.

Vehicle Code 23222 (b) - Driving with Marijuana

You will be charged with violating the vehicle code 23222(b) if you are arrested for driving with at least 28.5 grams of unsealed marijuana in California. Furthermore, if you are found to be driving with over 28.5 grams of cannabis or over 8 grams of hashish, then you will not be within the lawful limits of marijuana possession, and you can also be charged with breaking Vehicle Code 23222 (b). Defendants charged for violating the California Driving with Marijuana law face a fine of up to a hundred dollars ($100).

Health and Safety Code 11362- Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has been lawful in California for over 20 years now. This came to be after the voter approval of Proposition 215, also known as The Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Under this law, a patient is allowed to use marijuana and possess as much as they could possibly need to mitigate their health condition, unlike in the recreational use laws where there is a restriction to the amount you can personally possess.

The CUA is established under the California Health and Safety Code 11362.5 HS and its laws are still applicable today, even after recreational marijuana use was made legal. It protects medical marijuana patients and their caregivers against being charged for violating the above codes which limit marijuana and hashish possession, cultivation, transportation and the act of giving away marijuana.

A licensed California doctor may recommend marijuana to their patients of whichever age on medical grounds. However, if they are minors below the age of 18 they will need their parent’s permission to use marijuana.

Medical marijuana can be used within the law after a doctor prescribes it to people who suffer from the following conditions or diseases;

  • HIV and AIDs,
  • Eating disorders (Anorexia),
  • Cancer,
  • Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis,
  • Seizures,
  • Major nausea.

Primary Caregivers and their Lawful Duties

The Marijuana laws recognize primary caregivers as people who are have been appointed by legally qualified medical marijuana users to perform the role of caregiving to them. They are responsible for the health, safety and general wellbeing of the patients.

Primary caregivers to marijuana patients are legally allowed to possess, transport, and/or cultivate cannabis as long as it is for the patient’s individual use and within reasonable amounts according to their health requirements.

Patients and caregivers do NOT have to obtain medical marijuana identification cards (MMIC) to be recognized as beneficiaries of the CUA and thus, if you as a patient or caregiver are arrested for marijuana-related charges within California, you may need a Vista Criminal Law Firm attorney to affirm the Compassionate Use Act as a defense. Proposition 64 though demands that all users of marijuana for medical reasons to get a new recommendation from their licensed California doctors as from the first of January, 2018.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The California marijuana laws recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as not for profit cooperatives charged with the supply of medical marijuana to patients or their caregivers. They may do this at a fee or provide medical marijuana for free.

It is however unclear if after the legalization of recreational marijuana these dispensaries will still operate as earlier expected or they will re-emerge to cater for the new market created by passing of Proposition 64.

Marijuana and Federal Law

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the federal drug laws as established in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This is because of its likelihood to be abused, its unknown medicinal value, and the challenges it presents to be safely prescribed. Since the federal law is supreme to state laws under the US constitution, then it is a federal crime to use, possess, transport, sell, or give out cannabis, even if you are lawfully within the California marijuana code.

Violating federal laws on marijuana attracts severe penalties as detailed below.

  • Simple possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis demands a thousand dollars ($1000) in fines, and up to a year federal prison term.
  • Cultivating more than fifty (50) plants or possessing an amount of more than fifty (50) pounds of cannabis with an intention to sell, call for a maximum of five (5) years in the federal prison or a monetary fine of up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000).

The federal law treats repeat offenders and people arrested with large amounts of marijuana sternly, with increased fines and prison periods. It is also worth noting that you may be required to recompense the federal agencies for investigating and charging you for any drug-related violation.

When can Federal Prosecutors Charge you with Marijuana Crimes in California?

Federal agencies are hesitant to prosecute marijuana use, possession or transport especially if it is done within the lawful limits of Proposition 64, preferring to follow through with commercial marijuana activities especially when the proceeds fund syndicated crime.

Federal law, though, is applicable on federal property in the state. Such property includes public airports, Federal establishments such as post offices, and federal buildings. If you violate the California laws on marijuana within a federal property you will be charged under federal laws, whose punishment is severe on offenses committed on a federal property than those taking place elsewhere in the state.

California Marijuana laws and Immigration

A conviction for selling cannabis or attempting to sell cannabis for a migrant is considered an aggravated felony and could lead to significant consequences including deportation as per the Immigration and Nationality Act. This is the case for both state and federal convictions.

Find a Vista Marijuana Attorney Near Me

As we have elaborated above, it is easy to find yourself in violation of the federal laws in regards to marijuana while at the same time you are legally allowed to possess marijuana within the state laws. As such you might need clarification on the California marijuana code as a potential medical marijuana user, a business person looking to operate a cannabis dispensary or you just want to enjoy some weed. Whichever the case may be, it would be in your best interest to understand the state laws to ensure compliance.

Our attorneys at Vista Criminal Law Firm are willing and ready to pick up the phone for any questions you might have on California Marijuana laws. Get in touch with our Vista criminal defense lawyers at 760-691-1551. We serve the Vista area and the entire North San Diego County in California.