Marijuana Laws in California Lawyers

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Is Marijuana Possession Illegal in California?

While California certainly has some of the most relaxed laws regarding marijuana possession, it is still an illegal substance. Marijuana has be "de-criminalized" in California, meaning there is no prison time given or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amounts for personal consumption. It is treated, more or less, like a minor traffic ticket.

Matijuana Laws in CaliforniaThe two main factors looked at for marijuana possession are amount and location. Possession of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana is not an arrestable offense, and as long as you can provide sufficient identification and promise to appear in court, a police officer will likely just give you a $100 citation. However, if you have less than 28.5 grams on a school ground, this is a more serious offense, and this caries a $500 fine and up to 10 days in jail (this is only if the school is in session).  

Anything over 28.5 grams is no longer considered for personal use, and accordingly the penalties become severe quite rapidly. Possession of more than this amount can land you up to six months in prison, regardless of where you are. However, all of these crimes will still be considered only misdemeanors.  

Is Selling Marijuana Illegal in California?

Selling marijuana in any amount (as opposed to giving it away) is a serious offense in California and carries a 2-4 year sentence in a state prison (or 3-5 years if the sale is to a minor). Other penalties, such as driver's license suspension, can apply as well.

What about Cultivating Marijuana Plants?

This is considered the most serious offense, and the cultivation of ANY amount of marijuana or cannabis will result in 16-36 month sentence and a felony conviction in California. However, caregivers or patients who are growing medical marijuana for state approved use are exempt from this rule (doctor's documentation is necessary).

To be liable for "cultivating" marijuana, you have to:

  1. Plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process any marijuana or any part thereof of a marijuana plant
  2. Know that it is marijuana
  3. Not be exempt for medical reasons

I Have a Doctor's Note and Permission from My City to Grow Marijuana. Am I Immune from CA State Prosecution?

There is no easy answer to this question.  While California has passed laws that allow the cultivation of Marijuana for medicinal purposes, the Federal government still considers it strictly illegal, and allows no medical exception. This has created a very awkward situation between the state and federal governments.  

Some people might have a fully state-authorized program, or possibly even working FOR the state, to legally grow marijuana for medical patients.  In this situation, regular police will not, and indeed cannot, arrest you. But because you are still violating federal law, any federal agent (FBI, DEA, etc...) CAN arrest you, and charge you with extremely serious crimes. If you are producing marijuana for a city, chances are you are doing so in great amount, which under federal rules can get you life in prison.

Although federal prosecutions for marijuana possession and cultivation make up less than 1% of all convictions, it is still a constant danger to anyone working in these fields. In a recent case, the judge refused to allow the defendant to even tell the jury that he was working for the city when he was arrested.  

This is why it is very important to contact a good criminal attorney if you have been charged with any sort of marijuana crime in California. The complex nature of contradicting laws makes it all the more important that you have someone on your side who knows how best to defend you in these legal gray areas therefore an experienced California lawyer is essential to protect your legal rights. 

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Last Modified: 04-07-2016 11:01 AM PDT

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