California Marijuana Laws

If you believe that you are being investigated for marijuana-related offenses in Los Angeles, CA, you can contact the LA Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. We have an experienced team of investigators, paralegals, and attorneys with a great record of performance. We understand that being accused of an offense does not mean that you are guilty, and you could have favorable outcomes if your case is handled by expert attorneys. Read on to get more insights on California Marijuana Laws and how you can seek legal help from our law firm.

An Overview of California Marijuana Laws

California has been one of the states that led the charge in legalizing medical marijuana. Under California law, people who are eligible can get and use marijuana lawfully with a physician's prescription. Recreational use of marijuana was also legalized recently. However, all marijuana use is illegal under federal law. If you are considering using marijuana, here is everything you need to know about California marijuana laws.

Medical Marijuana

Local, State, and Federal Laws on Medical Marijuana

  1. The State of California Laws

    Medical use of Cannabis sativa L. was legalized in 1996 when Proposition 215 (the Compassionate Use Act) was passed. Later, Proposition 64 officially allowed recreational cannabis when California's legislature passed the Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). This created an integrated controlling system for both recreational and medical marijuana.

    These rules allow and control cultivation, distribution, dispensary, manufacturing, testing, and transportation of the drug. However, you need a license from both local and state agencies. Temporary state permits became available from January 2018.

    These rules exclude individual patients provided they cultivate for their medical use as well as restrict their growing area to 100 square feet. Caregivers are allowed to have a cultivating area of 500 square feet for use by five patients.

  2. City and County Regulations

    Most counties and cities permit or control dispensaries and crop growing of cannabis. Each county has its ordinances.

  3. Federal Laws

    Marijuana use, distribution, and possession are prohibited by the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Note that there is no exemption for medical use, and California law can't supersede federal law.

    In January 2018, US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions reversed the Obama Department of Justice's hands-off policy regarding federal prosecution of people who comply with state marijuana laws. Different lawyers can pursue marijuana offenses as they deem fit. In short, the future of California's medical cannabis industry is uncertain.

Federal law penalties

Possession of marijuana is punishable by one year in federal prison and a fine of $1,000. Cultivation or possession with an intention to sell less than 50 pounds of cannabis or 50 plants, on the other hand, is punishable by a fine of $250,000 and five years in federal prison.

Fines and incarceration durations increase for larger marijuana quantities or conviction of subsequent charges. Moreover, if you are charged with any federal drug offense, the court may order you to reimburse the government the cost of investigating and prosecuting the crime.

When is Federal Prosecution for Cannabis Likely to Occur?

You are unlikely to be prosecuted under the federal law if you use or grow marijuana in compliance with Prop 64. The federal government is mainly interested in taking legal action against huge traffickers and people with links to organized crime.

Both medical and recreational marijuana users should be aware that federal law applies to federal property in California. Perfect examples of the federal property include public airports, postal offices, federal courthouse, national parks, and federal buildings.

Contact Us Today for Immediate Assistance!

Marijuana and HUD Housing

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) permits local housing regulatory bodies to put in place their policies of marijuana use. Although occasionally imposed, the use of marijuana in HUD housing subjects patients to termination of essential federal benefits like food stamps.

Common Concerns about Medical Marijuana

Since recreational marijuana is legal, do you still require a medical recommendation?

People with a physician's recommendation can cultivate or have more significant quantities of marijuana compared to recreational users. If you are below 21 years, you should have a physician's recommendation to buy cannabis. Also, a medical marijuana card pardons you from taxes whenever you purchase marijuana.

How patients acquire medical marijuana recommendations

It is essential to note that medical practitioners don't prescribe marijuana. Under federal laws, it is illegal to prescribe Schedule 1 drugs including marijuana. Instead, your doctor will recommend marijuana for suitable health conditions. According to Prop. 215, patients suffering from anorexia, cancer, AIDS, spasticity, arthritis, glaucoma, chronic pain, and migraine can receive relief from marijuana. Doctors can also recommend marijuana from other conditions like depression, insomnia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and anxiety.

Typically, medical cannabis recommendations are issued by physicians specialized in patients' evaluation for recommendations. The doctor is supposed to review the patient's existing medical record and other medications the patient is using before making any recommendation.

A primary caregiver can be defined as a person who is reliably responsible for the patient's safety, health, and housing. The patients have also designated them for that purpose.

How to get marijuana and how much you can possess

Senate Bill 420 (20039) allows patients together with their primary caregivers to have up to twelve immature plants, six mature and eight ounces of dry marijuana. You can cultivate marijuana or buy it from a licensed dispensary.

The medical marijuana ID card and how to acquire one

You don't need a medical marijuana ID card to use medical marijuana legally. All you need is a physician's recommendation. Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, it exempts you from taxes after purchasing marijuana. Additionally, it stops law enforcement officers from arresting you provided you have the permissible amounts.

To acquire a medical marijuana ID card, you must personally apply at the health department office in Los Angeles. Even though your county's health department issues the ID card, the card can be used throughout the state of California. Contact the Los Angeles health department to book an appointment as well as determine the card's fee.

Here are must-carry requirements for the appointment:

  • A copy of your licensed doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana use

  • A government photo ID like your California-issued ID card or driver's license, a Veteran's Administration Identity Card or a US Passport.

  • Proof of residency in Los Angeles

  • A photo that is taken at your county's program office

You should use the same process to acquire a caregiver's ID card. Both the patient and their primary caregiver must avail themselves for application at the health department.

Is it possible for a prosecutor to use your medical marijuana card against you in your case?

It depends on the case. As a result of medical record privacy laws, the information found on the medical marijuana ID card is insignificant. The only information contained on the ID card is its registry number that only helps law enforcement determine where the card is expired or valid. Therefore, provided the card is valid; the prosecutor cannot use the card against you.

Nonetheless, there are offenses related to the card you could be convicted with. They include obtaining the card fraudulently or using false information on the card like fabricated ID number.

Also, medical marijuana laws don't protect cardholders who threaten others through the card's use or use the card for non-medical use.

Since concentrated marijuana is more useful for some diseases, can you use your medical marijuana recommendation instead?

According to medical marijuana laws in California, hashish is regarded as marijuana. Therefore you can possess, transport and use the reasonable amount associated with your disease. However, you should not produce concentrated cannabis through chemical solvents among other chemical processes.

Does a medical marijuana ID card permit you to run a dispensary?

The Compassionate Use Act, California Health and Safety Code 11362.775 permits patients, people with valid ID cards and designated caregivers of patients with ID cards to own and operate dispensaries. This is done deliberately so that these people can grow marijuana for medical use cooperatively or collectively.

There are stringent requirements regarding the running of dispensaries. Counties also restrict dispensaries in line with their regulations. Consequently, it is advisable to consult a professional attorney before starting a dispensary business.

Health and Safety Code Section 11357 HS (Possession of marijuana)

On January 2018, recreational cannabis was legalized in California. This law traces its roots back to voter passage in 2016 of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act which made recreational use as well as possession of marijuana in California legal. It is worth noting that the law did not change the medical marijuana regulations.

Marijuana legalization, however, doesn't mean you cannot be penalized for having marijuana in California. Under Health and Safety Code 11357 HS, it is illegal to:

  • Have more than an ounce of marijuana or concentrated ganja exceeding eight grams

  • Possession of marijuana, if you are below 21 years. This excludes medical marijuana patients

  • Possession of marijuana on H-12 school grounds while sessions are ongoing.

To prove that you are guilty of having marijuana, a prosecutor should use the following elements:

  • You illegally possessed the controlled substance

  • You knew of its existence

  • You knew of the substance's characteristics as a regulated substance

  • The controlled substance is marijuana

  • The marijuana held by the defendant exceeded one ounce

Marijuana here means every part (including the resin and seeds) of marijuana, whether growing or not. It also includes every compound, salt, manufacture, derivative, preparation or mixture of the herb, its resin, and seeds. It excludes mature stalks, fiber removed from the stems or cake or oil made from marijuana seeds.


  1. Possession of cannabis or concentrated marijuana by defendants below 21 years

    Possession of cannabis or hashish of any amount by a person below 21 years is an infraction and attracts a fine of $100 for defendants above 18 years.

    As first offenders below 18 years, you are required to attend four hours of drug counseling/education and perform ten hours of community service.

    For second and subsequent offenders who are 18 years and below, six hours of drug counseling and 20 hours of community service.

  2. Possession of marijuana exceeding one ounce

    Ownership of marijuana exceeding one ounce or more than eight grams of hashish by an adult defendant is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by six months in a county jail or a fine of $500.

    While ownership of more than an ounce of marijuana or hashish exceeding eight grams by defendants above 18 years is an infraction that is punishable by performing community service and attend drug counseling.

  3. Possession of marijuana on school ground

    Another form of marijuana possession that is still illegal is ownership of marijuana or concentrated marijuana on grounds or inside a K-12 school during sessions or after-school classes.

    Possession of marijuana or concentrated marijuana on a K-12 school grounds by a defendant above 18 years is a misdemeanor offense, and it attracts a fine of $250 for the first offense. Possession of marijuana or concentrated marijuana on a K-12 school grounds by a minor, on the other hand, is considered an infraction. It attracts punishment like community service and drug counseling.

Driving with Marijuana Possession (California Vehicle Code 23222 (b) VC)

California Vehicle Code 23222 (b) VC is a similar version of the open container violation for marijuana. The law makes it illegal to drive in possession of marijuana that is not contained with a closed lid or is in a container with a broken seal. Violation of California Vehicle Code 23222 (b) VC is an infraction punishable by a fine that does not exceed $100.

Driving while possessing more than the authorized amount of cannabis is charged as a misdemeanor under HS 11357.

Moreover, persons below 21 years are not supposed to possess any amount of marijuana unless under medical marijuana laws. Therefore you may be convicted with VC 23222 charges if you are under 21 and driving with possession of any amount of marijuana.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Marijuana

It is worth noting that smoking marijuana while driving is different from driving while in possession of marijuana. Also, most people are not aware that driving under the influence of marijuana is a severe offense in California. This is especially true, bearing in mind California medical marijuana laws.

Under the vehicle code, a person violates the law when they drive a vehicle while under the influence of any drug including marijuana. Their physical or mental abilities are also impaired by the drugs such that they can't operate the car with caution like a sober driver would under similar conditions.

Presenting proof that the defendant drove the vehicle seems simple. Right? This is because a routine arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana takes place during a traffic stop. But the police can arrest someone for DUI even if they didn't see that defendant driving. Consequently, the prosecution should prove that the defendant drove the vehicle from circumstantial evidence.

In California, sitting behind the wheel is not enough. You are considered to be driving when you intentionally perform an action, and the action in return directs and operates the vehicle's course.

Unlike alcohol, there is no legal limit for marijuana in California. This is because experts can't agree on how much marijuana is too much. Also, TCH (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol chemical) tests are not reliable. That means chemical test results are not good enough to convict a driver of DUI of marijuana.

The police will ask the defendant for their blood test or urine test. However, there are issues with the reliability of these chemical testing methods used. For instance, taking THC products or smoking marijuana will show THC levels in the blood immediately after consumption as well as days later when you are no longer stoned. Urine tests are even more unreliable since they can detect marijuana weeks after use.

Also, the prosecutor can charge you with DUI even if you refused to take a chemical test.

Evidence of DUI of marijuana may include:

  • Your driving pattern

  • Your statements to law enforcement

  • Your performance of Field Sobriety Tests (FST)

  • Presence of marijuana in your vehicle

  • Physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, red eyes, marijuana odor coming from your clothes and dry eyes

Penalties for DUI of Marijuana

Penalties for DUI of Cannabis sativa L. are similar to those DUI of alcohol. Unless a fatal accident is involved, it is a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor punishment

For the first offense, the penalty for DUI charges includes:

  • Informal summary for three to five years

  • A jail term of 96 hours to six months

  • A fine that ranges from $390 and $1,000

  • A driver's license suspension

These penalties increase with subsequent convictions.

Felony punishment

DUI of marijuana is occasionally considered as a felony. This occurs when:

  • The accident cause injury or death to a third party

  • The defendant has more than three DUI charges within ten years

  • The defendant has a previous felony conviction within the last ten years

Felony penalties for DUI are punishable by formal probation, a California state prison sentence and a one-year suspension of your driver's license.

Cultivation of Marijuana

Under California Health and Safety Code 11358 HS, persons above 21 years can grow up to six cannabis plants. In Los Angeles County, the plants can be grown both indoors and outdoors. Regardless of where you grow them, the plants should not be accessible to minors.

A person below 21 years who unlawfully cultivates marijuana is guilty of an infraction. If you are below 18 years, you will be required to attend drug education sessions and perform community service. People over 18 years of age but below 21 are fined $100.

Adults who plant, harvest, process or dry more than six marijuana plants are charged with a misdemeanor. They also face six months in county jail and a fine of $500.

Possession with an Intention to Sell

Prop 64 permits marijuana sale only for companies whose operations comply with local and state licenses. For an adult defendant, violation of Health and Safety Code 11359 HS carries a fine of $500 and a 6-months jail sentence in county jail.

Usually, proof of intent to sell marijuana without a license is made by circumstantial evidence like huge marijuana quantity, marijuana divided into several containers and the presence of money, weapons, and items like scales and baggies.

Sale of Marijuana Without a License (Health and Safety Code 11360 HS)

You can sell marijuana in California if you have acquired a permit from the Bureau of Marijuana Control. Unlicensed transport or sale of marijuana is a misdemeanor, and it is punishable by a fine of $1,000 and six months sentence in county jail.

But transport and sale of marijuana without a permit is a felony if the defendant:

  • Has a previous conviction for severe violent felonies like sexually violent crimes, murder, vehicular manslaughter or sexual assault against a kid below 14 years of age while drunk.

  • Has more than two previous charges for 11360 HS

  • Who intentionally sold, attempted to sell, transport, or furnish marijuana to a minor

Selling Marijuana to a Minor

Under 11361 HS, it is a felony for an individual above 18 years of age to sell marijuana to a person below 18 years. It is also a felony to use the minor to carry, trade, administer, peddle, prepare for sale or transport any type or amount of ganja.

If the child involved is below 14 years, the offense is punishable by 3, 5 or 7 year's sentence in California state prison. While using a minor above 14 years but below 18 years, the punishment is 3, 4 or 5 year's sentence in California state prison.