Marijuana Possession

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Under California law unlawful marijuana possession can subject an individual to criminal penalties. However, since the enactment of the Compassionate Use Act, the California Supreme Court has held that the possession of marijuana is no more criminal—so long as its conditions are satisfied—than the possession and acquisition of any prescription drug with a physician’s recommendation. (People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457, 482.)

Possession of marijuana for sale (Health and Safety Code, section 11359), cultivation of marijuana (Health and Safety Code, section 11358), and transportation of marijuana (Health and Safety Code, section 11360) can result in serious criminal penalties. In fact, many violations of the Health and Safety Code, with respect to the possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana, and transportation of marijuana, can result in a felony conviction and a state prison commitment.

At The Law Office of Gregory W. Fox we understand the complexities of the Compassionate Use Act and can assist you in raising all affirmative defenses if charged with a violation of the Health and Safety Code.

If you would like to learn more about marijuana possession and its associated penalties you can read California Health & Safety Code Section 11357 for a complete description.

Marijuana possession of less than an ounce

Typically marijuana possession of less than one ounce is treated as an infraction. In these cases, a citation is issued which is similar to a traffic ticket. The offender will generally not be booked if he or she can provide valid identification at the time of the citation. In marijuana possession cases where a citation has been issued, the defendant has the option to challenge the citation if it is believed that it was the result of an unlawful search, or other similar circumstances. The circumstances of the case will determine if these defense options are available to you. In these cases the judge will try the case; a jury will not be present.

If you are found guilty of marijuana possession (less than an ounce) the penalties are not very severe, and it should be noted that:

  • No jail sentence or probation can be imposed
  • No criminal record
  • Maximum penalty is a fine of $100 (plus court assessments)
  • Those under 21 will lose their driver’s license for one year if convicted

To avoid conviction you may also have the opportunity to seek Drug Sentencing Alternatives or Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ). With Deferred Entry of Judgment the defendant pleads guilty to the drug offense and then is allowed to withdraw the guilty plea 18 months later if certain requirements are met. Other sentencing alternatives include treatment, such as drug education and rehabilitation, opposed to a jail sentence.  An individual can also raise affirmative defenses under the Compassionate Use Act.

Marijuana possession of more than an ounce

Marijuana possession of more than an ounce (28.5 grams and up) is treated as a misdemeanor. Typically, first time offenders do not go to jail, however, the circumstances of your case can affect the penalties imposed. It is not uncommon for probation to be granted on the terms of a small fine or community service.

If you are convicted of marijuana possession in excess of one ounce, you could face up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500. However, as mentioned above, Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) and Drug Sentencing Alternatives may be available to you, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Charged with possession of marijuana?

If you have been charged with marijuana possession you should contact The Law Office of Gregory W. Fox immediately at (559) 222-5800. It is in your best interest to be represented by a criminal defense attorney that understands marijuana possession laws and the defenses available to you. Call today, in most instances an appointment can be scheduled for the same day.


If you have any questions regarding the services provided at the Law Office of Gregory W. Fox,
or would like to schedule your free initial consultation, please contact us today at (559) 222-5800. Hablamos español.