California marijuana laws experienced a drastic change in 1996 after the legalization of medical cannabis and decriminalization of possession of no more than 28.5 grams. The same statutes experienced a relaxation in January 2018 after the voters passed Prop 64 in 2016, legalizing adult possession or use of marijuana in private residences or licensed establishments. Under the new proposition, adults above 21 can buy, possess, and consume marijuana.
However, there is a restriction on the age and quantity of cannabis you should possess. You will face criminal charges if you have more than an ounce of dried marijuana or more than six plants. Also, possession for sale could result in criminal charges. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we have given an overview of California marijuana laws in this article to give you a deeper insight into whether you are charged with violating these laws in Chula Vista.
Recreational Use of Marijuana
The rules for personal or recreational use of marijuana are outlined under Health and Safety Code (HS) 11357. According to the statute, possession of over an ounce of marijuana for personal or recreational purposes became legal on 1st January 2018. This was after the approval of Proposition 64, which is the statute governing the personal use of cannabis for individuals aged 21 or above. Further, the law legalizes possession of eight grams of concentrated cannabis, otherwise known as hashish.
Although the law allows you to use marijuana within the legal limit, it doesn’t allow you to cultivate, purchase or use marijuana anywhere. You can only consume marijuana products in private and with the property owner's consent, meaning your landlord could prohibit marijuana consumption in their property. Again, HS 11357 allows for recreational use of marijuana in business places that hold valid commercial marijuana use licenses.
However, the use of marijuana in any public place or location where tobacco smoking is lawful is an infraction, even if it’s at a marijuana retailer shop. Further, the law prohibits riding a bicycle when under the influence of marijuana, driving passengers, or carrying an open container with marijuana in your vehicle.
Instances when Possession of Marijuana for Personal Use becomes a Crime
You will face infraction or misdemeanor charges when you possess marijuana under any of the following circumstances:
- You are below 21 years.
- You possess over 28.5 grams of marijuana or four grams of hashish
- You have hashish or marijuana on K-12 school grounds while learning is in progress
Penalties for HS 11357 Violation
If you are apprehended under any of the above circumstances, you will face charges and possible conviction. When you are below 21 and are arrested for possession of hashish or marijuana, you will face infraction charges. Upon conviction, you will be subject to a monetary court fine of no more than $100 if you are over 18. However, if you are below 18, the court will impose mandatory drug counseling and community hours as punishment.
When you are over 18 and are apprehended for having over 28.5g of cannabis or over eight grams of hashish, the prosecuting team will charge you with a misdemeanor. If found guilty, you risk up to half a year in county jail or a monetary court fine not exceeding $500.
For a person 18 or over, possessing over 28.5g of marijuana or more than eight grams of hashish will result in misdemeanor charges. If the court rules against them, they risk possible jail incarceration of a maximum of six months. The court might also order you to pay no more than $500 in monetary court fines. However, if you are 18 or younger and are arrested for simply possessing 28.5g or more of marijuana or 8g of hashish, you will be charged with an infraction. The punishment for this offense is community labor and attending drug counseling sessions.
Note that even though marijuana was legalized, if you are found in possession of the legal amount of this substance on K-12 school grounds, and you are 18 or older, you will face misdemeanor charges. When convicted, you will pay a court fine of as much as $250. However, if you are below eighteen and apprehended for possession of cannabis or hashish on K-12 school grounds, the sentence will be less stringent because there are no court fines. You are only required to attend drug counseling sessions and community labor. If the amount you or a loved one possesses on K-12 school grounds exceeds the legal amount, you will need an experienced criminal attorney for legal counsel.
Having an attorney in your corner can help reduce the charges or the penalties of a conviction. Mainly, when a minor possesses any amount of marijuana or hashish, or an adult carries more than an ounce of marijuana, there will be penalties for violating HS 11357. Luckily, you have an opportunity to contest the charges in court. You can start by asserting that you didn’t physically carry the weed, and you were not even aware it was within your person.
Additionally, you can argue that although you were carrying the pot, it was discovered in an illegal search, making the evidence obtained in the process inadmissible in court. However, the arresting officer must have initiated an unlawful traffic stop to use this argument as your defense.
Alternatively, you can use the defense if the search warrant used in your arrest was illegal or the officers conducted their search past the scope provided in the warrant. If any of these situations apply in your case, you can file a motion to suppress under PEN 1538.5. After the motion is successful, the charges will be significantly reduced, or the case dismissed entirely.
Weed Cultivation Statutes
Under California HS 11358, a person 21 or older is permitted to cultivate no more than six plants of marijuana for recreational use. Cultivation for purposes of this statute means planting, picking, drying, and processing. Further, Prop 64 restricts where marijuana plants can be cultivated. The law requires the cultivation to be done indoors, where minors cannot access, although some local jurisdictions like Los Angeles allow for weed cultivation outdoors.
Even if you are an adult spouse living in the same apartment, cultivating more than six cannabis plants is a crime. If you are below 21, cultivating any number of weed plants is an infraction. For minors below 18 and the court finds you guilty of the infraction, the punishment will be enrolling in a drug counseling program and community hours. However, the penalties will be harsher if you are under 21 but over 18 because you will pay a maximum monetary court fine of $100.
Nevertheless, an adult, 21 or older growing marijuana exceeding the legal limit provided under HS 11358 will face misdemeanor charges. When the court finds you guilty, you will be sentenced to no more than half a year in jail or pay a court-imposed monetary fine of no more than 100 USD. However, if the following circumstances are present in your case, the court will charge you with a felony:
- You are a registered sex offender.
- You have a criminal status of violent or serious felonies
- You have at least two previous sentences for weed cultivation beyond the designated limit
- Your cannabis cultivation techniques violate California environmental statutes
When you are convicted under any of the above circumstances, you will face stricter penalties like:
- Payment of monetary court fines of no more than 10,000 USD
- State prison incarceration for a duration not surpassing thirty-six months
Even if you are an adult convicted for felony HS 11358 violation but are a first-time offender, your sentence might be suspended. During the suspension period, you will be required to attend a drug counseling program. Also, a conviction for a misdemeanor HS 11358 violation will not affect your firearm rights or adversely affect your immigration status. However, if the sentence is for a felony, your immigration status can take a massive hit because you might be deported or denied entry into the country.
Luckily, with an attorney, a charge for violation of marijuana cultivation laws will not be entirely hopeless as it may seem. You can avoid a conviction or face lesser repercussions upon sentencing by hiring a criminal defense attorney experienced in handling cases like yours. An attorney can defend against the charges by arguing that you were not cultivating weed. Instead, it was a different plant that resembled weed. However, this defense will stand if there is insufficient evidence to show that the plant growing in your property was cannabis and not anything else.
Similarly, you can argue the lack of control or ownership of the weed plants by arguing that even though the property where marijuana cultivation was happening belonged to you, you didn’t plant the marijuana. Instead, somewhere else did it without your knowledge.
Police are not allowed to search or take away your property without a court-issued search warrant. Therefore, it’s illegal for officers to search or take away your cannabis plants without a valid warrant. If this happened in your case, you argue that the officer on the ground searched your property and took away the marijuana plants as evidence without following legal channels, making the evidence tabled against you inadmissible. That way, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecuting team for a lesser charge or compel them to drop the charges.
California Possession of Marijuana With Intent to Sell Law
After the passage of proposition 64, the sale of marijuana was legalized but under strict conditions. Businesses allowed to sell marijuana have adhered to all state regulations and obtained the relevant licensing. And because of this, HS 11359 criminalizes having marijuana for sale without a permit. However, before you face the penalties for this offense, the prosecuting team must prove the following:
- You Possessed or Carried Usable Amount of Pot
The prosecuting attorney must demonstrate actual or constructive possession. Actual possession means you were holding or carrying the weed in your person. On the other hand, constructive means you had control of the pot, even though you were not keeping it. They must prove this element before the court finds you guilty of this crime.
- You Had Knowledge of the Weed Presence
Asserting that you had control over the weed doesn’t sufficiently prove possession with intent to sell. The prosecutor should present enough evidence to show you were aware of the existence of the drugs on your person.
- You Knew Marijuana Was a Controlled Substance
To face charges under HS 11359, the prosecutor must demonstrate that you were aware having marijuana with intent to sell is against the law. Proving this isn’t easy because it’s hard to find evidence to show someone knew. However, in these cases, the prosecuting team relies on your reaction after the arrest to show that you were aware your actions were a contravention of the law.
- You Planned on Selling the Weed Without a Valid License
Possession of cannabis is not prohibited in California. Still, it becomes illegal if you plan on exchanging the controlled substance for money or any valuable item without meeting the relevant state government requirements. The prosecutor will prove your intent to sell if the amount in your possession exceeds the amount that could be considered for personal use. Additionally, if you had packaged the marijuana in small packets or tools used to weigh and package cannabis, it could be enough evidence of your intent to sell the substance.
Any other party that exchanges weed for money in California holds a valid license, making it illegal for you to do the same without the legal license. If arrested for the offense, you will be charged with a misdemeanor whose sentencing results in at most six months in jail or a monetary court fine of 500 USD. If you are lucky, the judge can impose misdemeanor probation in place of the jail sentence. However, informal probation comes with requirements that you must meet. These are:
- Random drug testing
- Compulsory counseling sessions
- Frequent property searches
- Filing a progress report
Note that if you have a prior conviction for an offense like murder or require registration as a sex offender, you will face felony penalties if the court finds you guilty. Again, if you have a previous conviction for possession or sale of marijuana or tried to sell the weed to a minor, you will face felony penalties. A conviction for this offense attracts no more than 36 months of jail incarceration. Luckily, many defense strategies are available to explore and ensure a favorable outcome.
Firstly, if the evidence they have to charge you with an HS 11369 violation is a tremendous amount of weed, you can argue that the substance was not for sale, but you planned on sharing it with your friends. Also, you could assert that you were not aware of the presence of cannabis, and this could result in a charge reduction. Despite cannabis possession being legal, possessing with intent is a serious offense that can leave you with a criminal record. Therefore, it’s critical to take the charges seriously and hire a defense attorney to protect your interests and freedom.
Selling, Transporting, Importing, and Gifting Marijuana
Under Prop 64, you can only sell marijuana if you have obtained a valid license to do the business. The Bureau of Cannabis or Marijuana Control issues these permits. Therefore, if you sell, import, transport, or gift the substance without a license, you will be violating HS 11360 because the purpose of the law is to eliminate the black market of marijuana.
The court will find you guilty of the offense if you do the following:
- Gift, administer, or transport usable amount of marijuana
- You were selling, importing, or transporting weed without a legal license
- You knew you possessed a controlled substance
HS 11360 violation can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. You are likely to be charged with a misdemeanor if you are a first-time offender, and upon conviction, you will face a possible sentence of no more than half a year or payment of 500 USD in court fines.
On the other hand, if you are a repeat offender for HS 11360 violation, have a prior felony conviction, or are offered to import weed from out of state, you will face felony charges. Upon conviction, you risk a prison sentence of up to four years, loss of gun ownership rights, or a criminal record you will disclose to employers when looking for employment or job promotion. Fortunately, you can streamline this process and increase the possibility of a favorable outcome by seeking legal counsel from a reputable attorney.
Selling of Cannabis to a Minor
HS 11361 states that it is unlawful for someone to sell or offer to sell cannabis to a minor. Other actions prohibited under this statute include transporting, carrying, gifting, administering, or preparing pot for sale to an underage. The Health and Safety Code criminalizes offering or giving in exchange for money or an item of value any amount of pot to an underage. The prosecuting team needs to demonstrate in a case like this that you had knowledge of the drug’s presence and planned on selling it to a minor.
Furthermore, you may be convicted if the prosecution proves you induced the underage person to smoke the marijuana through coercion, persuasion, or intimidation. Additionally, a conviction is probable if you used an underage individual to peddle, move or sell cannabis and offered payment for the services.
Although most violations of California marijuana laws are misdemeanors or infractions, HS 11361 violation is a felony punishable by as much as seven years in prison. If the minor in question were 14 or older, you would obtain a five-year reduction of your prison sentence. Again, the court could impose formal or felony probation instead of a prison sentence if you agree to mandatory drug counseling sessions and community labor. It’s worth noting that if you violate any of the probation terms, it will be suspended, and your initial prison sentence will be restored.
Felony penalties could have life-changing consequences, which is why you need an attorney in your corner whenever you face charges for HS 11361 violation. An attorney will assert in your defense that the minor smoked the marijuana without your knowledge or you were not aware of the age of the person you sold marijuana to.
Medical Marijuana Statutes
California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (CUA) under proposition 215 legalized the use of medical marijuana. The Act is outlined under HS 11362.5, and according to it, it is a crime to sell medical cannabis. The restrictions governing the use of marijuana do not apply in the medical marijuana case. Unlike recreational cannabis, which adults can only use, medical marijuana is available for eligible patients even if they are underage but as per the prescription by the physician. California allows you to cultivate weed or have it if you are treating medical conditions like AIDS, seizures, cancer, arthritis, anorexia, or other health conditions that cause chronic pain.
Therefore, if you are a patient with any aforementioned conditions or a caregiver, the law permits you to cultivate and use medical marijuana even if you are 21 or younger. However, if you are under 18, you will need consent from the parents to grow or use medical cannabis. A primary caregiver, in this case, means you have been designated for the role by the patient, and your part is to care for the patient’s housing, safety, and health.
You should understand that California permits non-profit making dispensaries to distribute or give cannabis to patients listed in the law or their caregivers or put them up for sale. All that is required from these dispensaries is to obtain a valid state license, and they are good to distribute or sell medical cannabis.
However, after the passage of Prop 64, it is uncertain if these dispensaries will continue distribution or will be folded by the fresh market of legal weed sale for recreational purposes.
Find an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
With California legalizing the use of marijuana and the federal government prohibiting the same, a lot of confusion exists. When you violate the laws controlling the use of the substance, you will face criminal charges and penalties if convicted. If you have been charged for breaching California cannabis statutes, we at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney are here to protect your rights. Also, when it’s a marijuana business you want to operate, we can guide you using our knowledge of these laws to ensure you comply with the state requirements, thus preventing a contravention of the law. Call us today at 619-877-6894 to schedule a meeting.