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California Marijuana Charges

Across the country, the laws and penalties regarding marijuana possession and sales have been changing rapidly. Even the laws in California may be changing in the near future. At this time, the various marijuana laws in California include the following:


Possession For Personal Use (California Health & Safety Code §11357)

Possession of less than an ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, with penalties including a fine of up to $100, and any additional court assessments.

Possession of more than an ounce (over 28.5 grams) of marijuana remains a misdemeanor offense, with possible jail time of up to six (6) months, and a fine of up to $500, in addition to any additional court assessments.

Possession of concentrated cannabis is known as a "wobbler." This means the charge can be treated as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the case. If charged as a felony, penalties can include up to three (3) years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Possession For Sale(California Health & Safety Code §11359)

The penalties for charges for possession of marijuana with the intent to sell can include a prison term of up to three (3) years, and a fine of up to $10,000. The sale does not only include money, but can include exchanging the marijuana for goods, services or other favors.

Prosecution for the intent to sell can be based on the quantity of marijuana alone, regardless of whether someone intended to sell. The prosecutor will attempt to prove intent to sell based on the "indicia" of sales, which may include packaging, scales, money, multiple phones or pagers, the number of people coming through the premises, and the quantity of marijuana.

Other evidence can include a person admitting the marijuana was to be sold or exchanged, or the use of text messages from cell phones that indicate a sale.

Maintaining or Making Available a Place Where Marijuana is Stored or Distributed(California Health & Safety Code §§11366, 11366.5)

Another "wobbler", this felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor, depending on the situation. This law targets those who open, maintain, rent, lease, or otherwise control a space where marijuana is held for storage or distribution. Penalties can include prison time of up to three (3) years.

Cultivation (California Health & Safety Code §11358)

Charges for marijuana cultivation are prosecuted as a felony, and includes possible prison time of up to three (3) years, and a fine of up to $10,000. Under the crime of cultivation, it is illegal to plant, cultivate, harvest, dry or process marijuana. It only takes one plant to be prosecuted for cultivation. However, as later described under the "medical marijuana" tab, California's medical marijuana laws protect qualified caregivers and patients.

Transportation, Importation and Distribution (California Health & Safety Code §11360)

It is a crime to transport or import into the state marijuana for the purpose of selling, distributing or otherwise giving it away. Penalties can include up to four (4) years in prison. Even attempting to do so faces the same penalties. However, when the amount transported is not more than one ounce (28.5 grams), the offense will be treated as a misdemeanor, and punished with a $100 fine.

Sales to Minors or Employment of Minors (California Health & Safety Code §11361)

It is a violation for an adult to (1) hire, employ or use a minor to unlawfully carry, transport, give away and sell or prepare for sale, (2) distribute or (3) induce a minor under fourteen (14) years of age to use marijuana. This can result in a sentence of up to seven (7) years in prison. If the minor is aged 14 to 17, then the maximum penalty is five (5) years in jail.

License Suspension Upon Conviction of Drug Related Offenses (California Vehicle Code §13202)

Under California's Vehicle Code, the court may suspend a person's driver's license for up to three (3) years if they are convicted of a drug related offense, or if the vehicle was involved in the commission of the offense. This is in addition to the underlying penalties.

Immigration Consequences

If you are convicted of a first time marijuana offense for simple possession of 30 grams or less, you can avoid immigration consequences such as deportation, by completing probation or a rehab program.

However, possession of more than 30 grams is a deportable offense. Other, more serious deportable offenses include possession for sale, transportation or cultivation of marijuana.

Minors and Defendants Under 21-years-old

For minors under the age of 18, they may have all convictions for marijuana possession or sale, dismissed by completing community service or a drug education programs. The judge has a lot of discretion in this area, and can impose a penalty of probation, or imprisonment in a youth authority facility.

Defendants under the age of 21 who are convicted of marijuana possession can lose their driver's license for up to one year. Although some courts offer alternative programs for youthful offenders to avoid conviction or loss of license if they complete a counseling or educational program.


The presence of a firearm can greatly affect your case, and will often result in an increased sentence, depending on the marijuana charge involved. For cases involving federal prosecution, the presence of a firearm may result in an additional five (5) year prison term.

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