After more than a century of prohibition, marijuana is now legal for personal use to all persons aged 21 years and above in California. This drug is also lawful for use by pediatric and adult medical patients. However, we have controversial rules and regulations that govern the use of pot for the group of people we have mentioned. Given that it’s still a new concept and has not been widely accepted, laws on marijuana could change rapidly. Therefore, it’s critical to educate yourself concerning these laws and be aware of your rights to avoid criminal punishments. In this article, Orange County Criminal Lawyer explains in detail everything you ought to know concerning California marijuana laws.

Simple Possession of Marijuana- Health & Safety Code (HS) 11357

Health & Safety Code (HS) 11357 is the law that outlines the rules and regulations for personal marijuana possession in California. From 1st January 2018, it is legal for California residents aged twenty-one years and above to possess marijuana that’s not over 28.5g (a little heavier than one ounce) for individual use. It is also lawful for people aged twenty-one years and above to possess up to 8g of hashish (concentrated cannabis) for personal use. However, keep in mind that the law provides restrictions on places where one can smoke marijuana.

Marijuana should be smoked in private, and with the property owner’s permission. This means your employer or landlord can forbid your consumption of this drug on the property you rent or work. Additionally, you cannot smoke marijuana at a location where tobacco smoking is lawfully prohibited.

Possessing marijuana, however, could still be an offense. The following are offenses (either infractions or misdemeanors) linked to the possession of this drug:

  • Marijuana possession by any person who’s below twenty-one years of age
  • Possession of over 8g of hashish or over 28.5g of marijuana
  • Possession of concentrated cannabis or marijuana on the ground of a K-12 school when school’s in session

The consequences for unlawful possession of concentrated cannabis or pot is as follows:

  • Possession of concentrated cannabis or marijuana by persons under the age of twenty-one years is an infraction. Its penalties are community service and drug counseling if you are below eighteen years and a maximum fine of $100 if you are over eighteen years.
  • Possessing over 8g of hashish or 5g of marijuana by defendants who are eighteen years and above is a misdemeanor. Its consequences are up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $500.
  • Possession of over 8g of hashish or over 28.5g of marijuana by defendants below eighteen years old is an infraction whose punishment includes community service and drug counseling.
  • Possession of hashish or marijuana on the ground of any K-12 school by defendants who are eighteen years and above is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by a maximum of $250 in fines for first-time offenders.
  • Possession of concentrated cannabis or marijuana on the ground of any K-12 school by defendants under eighteen years is an infraction. Its consequences are community service and drug counseling.

Cultivation of Marijuana (HS 11358)

California HS 11358 (cultivation of marijuana) was amended by Proposition 64. This law allows most persons that are age twenty-one years and above to grow a maximum of six marijuana plants. The plants must be cultivated indoors, except if outdoor cultivation is allowed under local rules and regulations. Irrespective of whether it’s grown outdoors or indoors, the marijuana plants should be securely located in a place that isn’t accessible to children.

If you are under twenty-one years of age and are caught cultivating any given amount of marijuana, you could face infraction charges. If you are convicted and below eighteen years old, your penalties will include performing community service and attending drug counseling. If you are aged eighteen years, and above but below twenty-years, you will be fined a maximum of $100.

For adults, growing more than six plants of marijuana remains an offense. If you are caught planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, or processing more than six living plants of marijuana, you face misdemeanor charges. If convicted, you could serve a county jail sentence that does not exceed six months and a maximum fine of $500.

Growing more than six marijuana plants can also be prosecuted as a felony if you perform the following actions:

  • If your criminal history has a record of severe violent felonies
  • If you a registered sex offender
  • If you have two or more past convictions for growing over six plants of marijuana
  • If you violate specific environmental rules and regulations when growing and cultivation marijuana

Possessing Marijuana with the Intent of Selling (HS 11359)

Prop. 64 decriminalized the selling of marijuana. However, legalization is only for those businesses that acquire the drug and run in agreement with local and state licenses. Consequently, possessing marijuana or hashish to sell it when you have no permit remains an offense under HS 11359. If you, an adult, are caught in possession of pot and intending to sell with no license, you face misdemeanor charges. If convicted, possible penalties include up to $500 in fines and a maximum of six months in jail.

However, possessing marijuana for sale with no license will be charged as a felony if any of these is true:

  • You have a past conviction for any of the severe violent felonies under California law. These felonies include murder, sex offenses against a minor under fourteen years, sexually violent crimes, gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI, or any sex offense that requires sex offender registration.
  • You have had two or more misdemeanor convictions of possessing marijuana for sale before.
  • You possessed marijuana with intent to sell it to a minor under the age of eighteen years.

If convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, as a felony offense, you could be punished by serving three or two years, or sixteen months in prison. Usually, proof of intention to sell with no license is made by the use of circumstantial evidence.  This kind of evidence include:

  • The drug is divided and packed into several containers or bags
  • The existence of cash or weapons
  • A large amount of marijuana
  • The arresting officer’s opinion that the pot was meant for sale
  • The presence of items like scales and baggies

Selling of Marijuana When You Have No License (HS 11360)

Under the marijuana legalization statute of California, you are only allowed to sell pot if you’ve acquired a valid license. You can obtain this kind of permit from the newly-formed Bureau of Marijuana Control. In case you do not have a valid license, selling marijuana, or even transporting it to sell is still an offense under HS 11360. Under proposition 64, selling marijuana without a permit is illegal per HS 11360.

For many culprits, unlicensed transporting to sell, or selling pot is charged as a misdemeanor whose penalties include a period not exceeding six months in jail and up to $1000 in fines. For defendants below the age of eighteen, the crime will be charged as an infraction. Additionally, transporting with the intent of selling or giving away a maximum of 28.5g of pot without a valid license will be an infraction under California law.

Apart from transporting for sale or selling of marijuana without a permit, you could be charged if:

  • You have had a past conviction for any of the severe violent felonies as outlined under California law. These felonies include sexually violent crimes, sex offenses against a minor under fourteen years, murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI, or any sex offense that requires sex offender registration.
  • You have had two or more past convictions for Health & Safety Code 11360, transportation/sale of marijuana.
  • You knowingly tried to sell/offered to furnish or sell, or otherwise sell pot to a minor under eighteen years.
  • You imported or offered to import into/out of California for sale, over 8g hashish, or 28.5g marijuana

If found guilty of black market transportation or selling marijuana per Health & Safety Code 11360, you face two, three, or four years in prison.

Finally, giving pot away or transporting it without the aim of selling it isn’t a crime under California law provided both of these are true:

  • Any person you give the marijuana to is twenty-one years old and above.
  • You give away or transport not over 28.5g of pot or 8g of hashish.

Selling Pot to a Child (HS 11361)

Under HS 11361, it is a felony offense for anyone who’s eighteen years or above to sell pot to a child. This law remains unchanged by Proposition 64, which legalizes marijuana use. It is also a felony offense under HS 11361 to use any minor illegally to sell, carry, transport, furnish, give away, peddle, administer, or prepare for selling any type or amount of marijuana.

The sentence for violating HS 11361 is served in state prison instead of a county jail. In case the involved minor is under fourteen years old, the punishment is seven, five, or three years in prison. And if the involved child is above fourteen years but below eighteen years, the consequences are five, four, or three years in prison.

Operating a Vehicle with Marijuana (VC 23222b)

California VC 23222b makes it a crime to drive a motor vehicle when in possession of 28.5g marijuana. It’s a sister condition to the statute that prohibits driving when you have an open can of alcohol. Prop. sixty-four didn’t alter this law. VC 23222b is charged as an infraction, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $100.

Concentrated Cannabis

This is commonly known as hash or hashish. It’s the separated resin (purified or crude) derived from the pot plant. Under the law, hashish is a type of marijuana. This implies that, among several other things, persons allowed to grow, transport, or possess medical marijuana can also do so with hashish. Additionally, under Prop. 64, simple concentrated cannabis possession for recreational purposes is lawful, but one can only possess not more than 8g for their personal use.


There are no consequences for the simple possession of simple marijuana paraphernalia. On the other hand, delivery, sale, possession with the intent of delivering or selling, and manufacturing with the intent of delivering or selling marijuana paraphernalia is charged as a misdemeanor. Its punishments include between fifteen and a hundred and eighty days in jail and between $30 and $500 in fines. Delivery of marijuana paraphernalia by a person aged eighteen years and above to a child that is at least three years his/her junior is charged as a misdemeanor. It is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and up to $1000 in fines.

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana legalization was achieved when California voters approved Proposition 215, referred to as the CUA (Compassionate Use Act of 1996). Proposition 215 is described under HS 11362.5 and the subsequent sections.

Prop. 64, which legalizes recreational pot, was approved two decades later after Proposition 215 was passed. However, despite recreational marijuana being legalized, the laws and systems on medical marijuana are still applicable.

For one, the strict amount limits that apply to recreational marijuana don’t apply to medical marijuana. The users of medical marijuana can have as much pot in their possession as their health condition demands but with their doctor’s recommendation.

Also, persons under twenty-one years old may cultivate and use medical marijuana with a physician’s recommendation. If they are below eighteen years, permission from their parents is required.

Who Can Lawfully Use Medical Pot?

As per the CUA, you can legally take medical marijuana after a physician’s prescription to treat a severe medical condition. Examples of conditions include arthritis, AIDs, anorexia, migraines, cancer, seizures, multiple sclerosis, or any specific debilitating health condition like severe nausea or chronic pain.

What Can a Medical Marijuana Patient Legally Do?

Medical marijuana laws authorize cultivation, transport, administration, and possession of medical pot. However, the authorization is only for the patient’s personal use and in a quantity that reasonably relates to the patient’s medical requirements. However, under no circumstances may a medical marijuana patient sell the pot, cultivate, or possess it in more quantities than is relatively related to his/her medical use.

Dispensaries for Medical Marijuana

The law also permits medical marijuana distribution to non-profit medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, or dispensaries. There are local and state regulations concerning how these dispensaries should operate. However, legal dispensaries can give or sell pot to the patients or their caregivers.

Following the approval of Prop. 64, it’s unclear whether the dispensaries for medical marijuana will keep on operating independently, or they will be incorporated into the newly-emerging market for lawful recreational marijuana.

The Federal Marijuana Laws

Title 21 of the U.S Code is the federal Controlled Substance Act. Under the Controlled Substance Act, the pot is a drug that falls under Schedule 1 hallucinogens. This means that the federal government believes that marijuana has an increased possibility of being abused and no presently acknowledged medicinal use.

The Controlled Substances Act has precedence over California laws. When you transport, give away or sell pot, you breach federal laws even if you’re abiding by the medical marijuana laws or recreational pot legalization laws of California.

Consequences As Per the Federal Law

Marijuana drug crimes attract harsh penalties under federal laws. Here are a few examples to illustrate this fact:

  • A first offender for simple marijuana possession is subjected to a federal prison sentence that does not exceed a year and a maximum fine of $1000.
  • Possession with the intent of selling, cultivation, or selling below fifty pounds of the pot or fifty marijuana plants is punishable by a fine not exceeding $250000 and a federal prison sentence of not more than five years.

Incarceration periods and fines increase for more significant amounts of pot or convictions of subsequent crimes. Additionally, if you’re sentenced for a federal drug-related offense, you might also be asked to repay the government for the costs incurred in prosecuting and investigating the crime.

When Are You Likely to Face Federal Prosecution Due to a Marijuana-Related Offense?

Practically, you’re unlikely to face charges under the federal marijuana laws if you smoke pot or cultivate it for personal use, especially if you comply with Proposition 64 rules. The federal government is mainly interested in going after large-scale marijuana traffickers and people who have connections to organized crimes.

But, the attorney general of the United States Jeff Sessions revoked Obama-era regulations that prevented the federal prosecuting attorneys from prosecuting individuals who use pot in compliance with the state laws. Now, federal prosecuting attorneys are free in deciding whether to apply federal or state laws when it comes to using marijuana.

This move has been highly criticized, and it’s not entirely clear what the California-based federal prosecutors will do. However, it’s not anticipated that federal prosecutors will go after that casual marijuana user who obeys the California marijuana regulations.

Federal Laws Apply on Any Federal Property that’s Within California

Marijuana users, both medical and recreational, should know that federal laws, instead of California laws, apply to a federal property within California State. The federal property includes federal buildings, public airports, post offices, federal courthouses, and national parks.

If you violate marijuana laws while on any federal property, you are charged under federal regulations. And federal punishments are generally more significant for drug offenses that take place on any federal property than those that take place somewhere else but are, nonetheless, charged under federal laws.

The United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) allows the authorities in charge of local housing to create independent policies on the use of marijuana. Recreational or medical marijuana users can lawfully be denied federally-associated housing. And even though rarely enforced, using marijuana in HUD-based housing could subject a patient to the cancellation of various federal benefits, for instance, food stamps.

Marijuana Laws and Immigration

Selling pot, and even possessing it with the intent of selling is considered an aggravated felony under the Immigration & Nationality Act. This is irrespective of whether you were convicted under federal or California laws. If convicted of a particular aggravated felony offense, the immigration penalty is deportation. Therefore, if you’re an undocumented immigrant, you are advised to speak with a skilled criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of an offense that involves marijuana.

Find a Competent Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me to Help with My Marijuana Case

If you use, possess, transport, or cultivate marijuana in compliance with California marijuana laws and face charges, you should contact a skilled marijuana criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, our attorneys have knowledge of marijuana laws and have successfully defended individuals like you who have been falsely accused of marijuana-related offenses.

We could help you win the case thanks to our dedication in providing clients with the expert legal representation and help them overcome the difficult situation they are facing. We have offices in Orange County, and an open telephone line 24/7. Contact us as soon as you get charged with a marijuana drug crime at 714-262-4833 for a phone consultation on the steps you should take.