Penalties for Marijuana Possession in California

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Health and Safety Code 11357 relates to California’s possession of marijuana law. Penalties for marijuana possession in California vary depending on the circumstances of your case. If you were arrested for possession of marijuana there are a variety of legal defenses that apply to Health and Safety Code 11357 that may be available for you. An attorney skilled in marijuana cases can present these on your behalf.

Possessing less than one ounce of marijuana

As of January 1, 2011 possession of no more than one ounce of marijuana is considered an infraction which is punishable by a fine of $100. This does not apply to concentrated cannabis which will be discussed below.

If you are over the age of eighteen (18) and possess less than one (1) ounce of marijuana (again, excluding concentrated cannabis) on school grounds while the school is open for classes and/or school related activities you could face a misdemeanor charge. This misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to ten (10) days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

However, if you are under the age of eighteen (18) and you are convicted of possession of marijuana under the same or similar circumstances a first offense could lead up to a $250 fine while a second offense can lead up to a $500 fine and up to ten (10) days in a juvenile detention center.

Possessing more than one ounce of marijuana

If you are convicted of possessing more than one ounce of marijuana (other than concentrated cannabis) you can face up to six (6) months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Possession of concentrated cannabis

On November 5, 2014 California passed Proposition 47 which is known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. Proposition 47 reduces the penalties for certain theft and drug related crimes. More specifically, Proposition 47 takes crimes that were formally “wobblers” meaning they could be treated as either a felony or a misdemeanor and in most situations treats them as misdemeanors. As a result, the maximum penalty for most of these offenses is up to one (1) year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

This relates specifically to the possession of concentrated cannabis:

“Concentrated cannabis means the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from marijuana.”

Possession of concentrated cannabis used to be a “wobbler” offense under Health & Safety Code 1135738 and is now a misdemeanor which is subject to the jail time and fine listed above. If you were convicted of this offense prior to the passing of Proposition 47 and you received a felony sentence you may be able to petition the court to have your sentence reduced to a misdemeanor.

Possessing medical marijuana

California’s Compassionate Use Act authorizes the use of medical marijuana, including concentrated cannabis, in situations where:

  • You have personal medical needs
  • You are the primary caregiver of a medical marijuana patient and you possess the marijuana exclusively for that patient
  • A doctor has recommended or approved the use of marijuana as part of treatment

Possession of marijuana is not a crime under these circumstances. While it is not necessary to possess a medical marijuana ID card, it could be a useful method of demonstrating to police that you are a legal medical marijuana patient. However, in order to use medical marijuana as a defense you must only be in possession of an amount of marijuana that is reasonably related to the medical needs of yourself or the patient.

Possessing marijuana with the intent to sell

It is illegal to possess any amount of marijuana with the intent to sell it. Unlike possession of marijuana for personal use, possession with intent to sell is a felony in California with a penalty of up to three (3) years in jail. In addition, a felony conviction can lead to other consequences, such as having to disclose your conviction on job applications. Depending on your criminal history you may be eligible for probation which could result in little or no jail time. However, with probation you may be under certain restrictions such as:

  • Meeting with a probation officer
  • Drug testing
  • Community service
  • Warrantless searches of your person
  • Warrantless searches of your property

It is also important to understand that you will not be eligible for a drug treatment program (instead of jail time) if you are convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to sell. However, depending on the circumstances of your case it may be possible to have the charge reduced to simple possession which would make it possible to seek drug diversion opportunities.

We have covered a lot of ground here on possession of marijuana in California, however, there is a lot more information regarding possession, cultivation, sale, marijuana DUI and more that will be covered in upcoming posts. If you have any questions regarding a marijuana possession charge please contact our office at (559) 222-5800 or visit our Drug Crimes page for more information.

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.