In California, people 21 years and older can possess and use marijuana. However, it is limited to recreational purposes. This legalization came about through the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The electorate voted for the initiative, Proposition 64, in November 2016. Since then, adults in California have had the legal right to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Despite the legalization of marijuana, some regulations govern its possession and utilization. Health and Safety Code 11357 is one of the regulations that specifically deals with the illegal possession of marijuana. This statute outlines various scenarios in which possession can lead to a violation of the established legal provisions. The penalties vary depending on the circumstances of your case.

It is crucial to be well-informed about and understand the legal provisions detailed in Health and Safety Code 11357 to ensure compliance and avoid potential penalties. However, should you face charges for violating Health and Safety Code 11357, do not hesitate to contact the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney for assistance.

A Breakdown of Health and Safety Code 11357

The provisions outlined in Health and Safety Code 11357 identify specific actions that are considered criminal offenses. Let us take a closer look at these provisions:

(a) Possessing up to 28.5 grams of cannabis or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish), or both, is an infraction or offense, depending on the age group:

  • Individuals under 18 — A first offense is an infraction requiring drug education, counseling, and community service. Repeat offenses could have increased requirements.
  • Individuals at least 18 but under 21 years old — An infraction punishable by a fine of up to $100.

(b) Possessing over 28.5 grams of cannabis or over 8 grams of hashish, or both:

  • For individuals under 18 years old — Possession is an infraction with increased requirements for drug education, counseling, and community service for a first offense and further increased requirements for subsequent offenses.
  • For people 18 years old or older — Possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

(c) Possessing 28.5 grams of cannabis or less or not more than 8 grams of hashish on school grounds or within a school during school hours:

  • Individuals 18 years old or older — It is a misdemeanor offense with a fine of up to $250 for a first offense and a fine of up to $500, or up to 10 days of imprisonment in county jail, or both, for subsequent offenses.

(d) Possession by an individual under 18 years old on school grounds or within a school during school hours:

  • It is an infraction offense with a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for the second offense. Alternatively, the judge could commit the juvenile to a juvenile hall, camp, ranch, or secure juvenile residence for up to 10 days with a fine requirement.

To partake in the legal sale of marijuana in California, acquiring a license is a mandatory requirement. The state has established a comprehensive regulatory framework that mandates individuals and businesses involved in commercial cannabis sales to procure the requisite permits. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) oversees and regulates commercial cannabis activities. It holds the authority to issue these licenses.

Different licenses are available depending on the specific activities you intend to pursue, specifically cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, or retail sales. Each license category has particular requirements and application procedures that you must adhere to to obtain the permit that aligns with your planned business activities.

Engaging in the black market sale of marijuana would violate several laws. Here are the primary laws that you would be breaking:

  • Health and Safety Code § 11358 — This law explicitly addresses the cultivation of marijuana. It is illegal to cultivate, plant, harvest, dry, or process marijuana plants without the appropriate licenses or violate the state's regulations. Engaging in the unauthorized cultivation of marijuana to sell on the black market would violate this law.
  • Health and Safety Code § 11359 — This statute makes it illegal to possess marijuana with the intent to sell it. If you purposefully possess marijuana intending to distribute it through unauthorized channels, commonly known as the illicit black market, it clearly violates the prevailing law. The law applies to any quantity of marijuana beyond the legally allowed amount for personal use.
  • Health and Safety Code 11360 — This law prohibits the transport, sale, furnishing, administering, or giving away of marijuana for non-medical purposes. Engaging in the black market sale of marijuana would directly violate this law.

What Prosecutors Must Prove in a Possession of Marijuana Case

To convict you of possession of marijuana under Health and Safety Code 11357, Chula Vista prosecutors must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Possession — They must demonstrate that you had actual or constructive possession of the marijuana. Actual possession means the marijuana was in your physical control, for example, in your hand or pocket. Constructive possession means the marijuana was within your control or in a location under your dominion and control, for example, in your car.
  • Quantity — Prosecutors must establish that the amount of marijuana you possessed exceeded the legal limit set by the statute, which is currently 28.5 grams (approximately one ounce) of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis.
  • Knowledge — They need to prove that you had knowledge of the presence of marijuana and were aware of its nature as a controlled substance.
  • Unlawful possession — Prosecutors must demonstrate that your possession of marijuana was not authorized by law. It implies that either you lacked a legitimate prescription for medical marijuana or failed to meet the eligibility criteria for lawful possession and usage as outlined in California law.
  • Age — Depending on the specific provisions of the applied statute, they will need to prove your age. Distinctions in penalties arise based on age, with different consequences applicable to individuals under 18 years old versus those 18 years old or older.

Federal Enforcement of Marijuana Possession

Irrespective of state-level initiatives to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, federal law maintains its prohibition on possession. Per federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. This signifies its categorization as having a substantial risk of abuse. 

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was enacted in 1970. Federal law prohibits the possession, cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana. These restrictions apply nationwide, including in California, irrespective of state-level legalization or decriminalization efforts for recreational or medical purposes.

However, enforcement of federal marijuana laws varies depending on factors such as:

  • The priorities and policies of the federal administration in power.
  • Available resources, and
  • The extent to which state and local authorities cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies.

In recent years, federal authorities have shown a trend of non-interference with state-legalized marijuana operations. Federal law enforcement agencies have the authority to enforce federal marijuana laws, despite specific trends of non-interference with state-legalized operations.

President Biden has taken steps toward marijuana policy reforms since assuming office. In October 2022, he issued a Presidential Proclamation granting pardons to all federal offenders convicted of simple marijuana possession. Furthermore, he instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review and potentially revise the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance.

These actions by the Biden administration signify a significant departure from past federal marijuana policies. Despite the policy shift, legally, marijuana remains a controlled substance. Therefore, the federal government can enforce the marijuana laws. Recent actions indicate a change towards decriminalization and a willingness to let states regulate marijuana in various ways.

Defenses You Can Raise in a Marijuana Case to Fight the Charges

In a marijuana possession case, there are several legal defenses that your attorney can raise. These defenses challenge the prosecution's case and could potentially result in the dismissal or reduction of charges. The choice of the ideal defense strategy depends on the circumstances of your case. Some common defense arguments include the following:

  • You Have a Valid Medical Marijuana Recommendation

A valid medical marijuana recommendation can sometimes serve as a legal defense. This defense strategy relies on the provisions of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) established under Senate Bill 420.

If you have a valid recommendation from a qualified physician, you are legally authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes. However, this defense is only effective if you demonstrate that:

  1. You have a qualifying medical condition — You must have a medical condition recognized under California law that the use of marijuana can alleviate. Qualifying conditions include cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and epilepsy.
  2. Your recommendation is valid and properly obtained — Your recommendation must be issued by a licensed physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. It should be current and comply with the requirements outlined in Proposition 215 and the MMP.
  3. Your marijuana use is consistent with the terms of your recommendation — You must use marijuana per the limits specified in your recommendation. This includes the allowable amount of marijuana for personal use and any restrictions on cultivation or possession.

Note: Having a medical marijuana recommendation does not provide absolute immunity from prosecution, but it can serve as a legal defense.

  • Lack of Knowledge or Control

In some cases involving the possession of marijuana, you can assert a lack of knowledge or control. This defense argues that you were unaware of the presence of marijuana or that you lacked control over the area where it was found.

To successfully raise this defense, you would need to demonstrate the following:

  1. Lack of knowledge — You genuinely did not know that marijuana was present. This could be due to factors including the marijuana being hidden or concealed without your awareness.
  2. Lack of control — You did not exercise control or have ownership over the area where the marijuana was discovered. For example, if the marijuana was found in a shared living space or a vehicle that you did not exclusively possess or control, you can argue that you were not responsible for the presence of the marijuana.

When raising the defense of lack of knowledge or control, you can present various pieces of evidence to support your claim. Here are some examples:

  1. You can use surveillance footage to demonstrate that you were not present when the marijuana was discovered, further supporting your lack of knowledge or control.
  2. You could present evidence, including witness statements, lease agreements, or property records, to show that you were not in a position to possess or control the marijuana if officers found it in a location you had no access to or control over.
  3. In some cases, you could provide evidence from drug tests showing that you did not have any traces of marijuana in your system. This will support your claim of lack of knowledge or control.
  4. Any documents, for example, travel itineraries, receipts, or work schedules, that establish your absence from the location where the marijuana was found can help support your defense.
  • You Lacked Possession of the Marijuana

The defense of "lack of knowledge or control" is not the same as arguing “lack of possession.” While they could overlap in certain situations, they are distinct legal defenses.

Lack of possession refers to asserting that you did not physically possess the marijuana. It involves denying any connection to or ownership of the marijuana, suggesting that you had no control or custody over it.

On the other hand, lack of knowledge or control focuses on your awareness and control over the presence of marijuana. It involves claiming that you were unaware of its existence or lacked control over the area where the marijuana was found, even if you could have technically possessed it.

When arguing lack of possession as a defense, you can present evidence to support your claim that you did not possess the marijuana in question. Here are some types of evidence that can help support a lack of possession defense:

  1. Witness testimony — If witnesses were present when the alleged possession occurred, their testimony could be crucial. Witnesses who can attest to your lack of possession or absence from the location where the marijuana was found can strengthen your defense.
  2. Fingerprints or DNA evidence — If officers found the marijuana in a container or object, you can request a fingerprint or DNA analysis to determine whether your fingerprints or DNA were present. If no trace of your fingerprints or DNA is found, it can support your defense of lack of possession.
  3. Alibi or documentation — Providing evidence of proof or documentation showing that you were elsewhere at the time of the alleged possession can be persuasive. This can include receipts, phone records, witness statements, or any other documentation establishing your presence elsewhere.
  • You are a Victim of an Unlawful Search and Seizure

When asserting an unlawful search and seizure defense, you are challenging the legality of how law enforcement obtained the evidence (for example, marijuana) used against you. Here are some types of evidence that can support an unlawful search and seizure defense:

  1. Fourth Amendment violations — The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement searches your property without a valid warrant or fails to meet the requirements for a warrantless search, it is an unlawful search.
  2. Lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion — For a search to be lawful, law enforcement must have had a reasonable belief that a crime was being committed or that there was evidence of a crime in the location to be searched. It could be deemed unlawful if there was no probable cause or reasonable suspicion to justify the search.
  3. Consent issues — If you did not give voluntary and informed consent for the search, or if law enforcement exceeded the scope of the consent, it can be argued that the search was unlawful. Evidence showing coercion, duress, or confusion regarding your rights can support this defense.
  4. Illegal stop or arrest — If police officers conducted the search or arrested you at the initial stop without a valid reason or without following proper legal procedures, the search and seizure is unlawful.
  5. Suppression motions — Your defense attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence, asking the court to exclude any illegally obtained evidence from being used against you. This can be based on the above violations or other relevant factors in your case through the Pitchess motion.

The Pitchess Motion

This legal procedure empowers your attorney to request the disclosure of pertinent information from the personnel records of law enforcement personnel. It is commonly employed to acquire past complaints, allegations of misconduct, or disciplinary actions involving an officer connected to your case.

By filing a Pitchess motion, you can discover evidence of an officer's misconduct relevant to your defense. This evidence undermines their credibility, especially if they have a history of misconduct or lying. With a Pitchess motion, you can reveal an officer's past Fourth Amendment violations. This strengthens your claim of police misconduct and indicates a history of unconstitutional actions.

Using a Pitchess motion, you can discover an officer's record of Fourth Amendment violations. This supports your claim of police misconduct and indicates a recurring pattern of unconstitutional behavior.

The motion also reveals any personal biases or improper motives of the officer involved. If there is evidence of a grudge, prejudice, or improper targeting, it strengthens your case that the search or seizure lacked justification.

By utilizing the motion, you can obtain an officer's training records and assess their compliance with departmental policies. If the documents reveal inadequate training or the officer's non-compliance, you can use this evidence to support your argument that the officer exceeded their authorized powers.

  • You Were Entrapped

You can claim entrapment if law enforcement enticed you to commit a crime you would not have otherwise done. It involves persuading someone to engage in illegal activity that they would not have been inclined to do without the involvement of law enforcement.

The following evidence can bolster an entrapment defense:

  1. Demonstrating inducement — You must show those law enforcement officers or their agents actively encouraged, coerced, or enticed you to commit the crime. Evidence, including recorded conversations, emails, text messages, or witness testimony, can help establish the inducement.
  2. Lack of predisposition — You must demonstrate that you were not already predisposed or inclined to commit the specific crime before the law enforcement involvement. Evidence of your character, prior behavior, and lack of participation in similar illegal activities can support this claim.
  3. Patterns of law enforcement conduct — If there is a pattern of law enforcement using similar tactics to induce individuals to commit crimes, this can bolster your claim of entrapment. Evidence of previous cases or documented instances of law enforcement engaging in similar conduct can be valuable in supporting your defense.
  4. Absence of opportunity — If you can show that you did not have the opportunity or means to commit the crime without the involvement of law enforcement, it can strengthen your entrapment defense. Evidence demonstrating you lacked the resources, knowledge, or access to commit the offense independently can be helpful.
  5. Expert witness testimony — In some cases, expert witnesses like psychologists or criminologists provide their professional opinions on the coercive tactics employed by law enforcement and the impact on your decision-making process. Their testimony can help support your claim of entrapment.

Find a Chula Vista Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you or someone you know is facing charges for possession of marijuana seek the expertise of a seasoned attorney who focuses on marijuana cases. An attorney with extensive experience handling these cases can offer tailored advice and work diligently to safeguard your rights during legal proceedings.

Avoid attempting to navigate the intricacies of the legal system by yourself. Instead, get in touch with the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. You need our team’s experience to navigate the complex justice system. We will thoroughly investigate your case and formulate a winning defense strategy. Contact our team at 619-877-6894 to schedule a free case evaluation.