California Marijuana Laws
Explained by Criminal Defense Lawyers

As a D.A., California marijuana defense lawyer Neil Shouse spent years prosecuting every type of pot case. Attorney Shouse worked with the Los Angeles Police, the Sheriffs department and the DEA in writing search warrants, investigating marijuana distribution rings, and prosecuting cases in court. He handled cases including:

Health & Safety Code 11360: Sale or Transportation of Marijuana
Health & Safety Code 11359: Possession for Sale of Marijuana
Health & Safety Code 11358: Marijuana Cultivation
Health & Safety Code 11357: Marijuana Possession for Personal Use
California DUI of Marijuana

But attorney Shouse soon came to realize that police and prosecutors were wasting a fortune of tax payer money to bust innocent people for growing and using a harmless substance. So in 2004 he retired from prosecution and became instead a Los Angeles based marijuana defense lawyer. Now he uses his insider prosecutorial experience to help clients fight the oppressive system of marijuana enforcement.

Today our team of criminal defense attorneys represents clients across California as to every sort of marijuana charge, from simple misdemeanor possession to large-scale sale and transportation cases. Our marijuana lawyers have been successful in getting charges reduced and dismissed, keeping clients out of jail, and getting illegally-seized pot and money returned to the rightful owners. We also assist clients in:

If you or a loved one faces a criminal charge in California involving the possession, sale, use, cultivation, possession for sale, transportation or distribution of marijuana, we invite you to contact us.

Police routinely use unreliable informants, defective search warrants, invasive tactics and other illegal methods to bust users, growers and dealers of marijuana. We can help you fight back. Contact us.

Below you will find a discussion of the primary California marijuana laws:

Possession of Marijuana (For Personal Use) Is a Misdemeanor

Possession of one ounce (28.5 grams) or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, but can only be punished by up to a $100 fine. However, possession of more than an ounce (28.5 grams) is punishable by up to six months in the county jail or a fine of up to $500, or both. And possession of concentrated cannabis (hashish) can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, carrying up to 3 years custody time. See California Health & Safety Code 11357. In any case, even a personal use conviction creates a criminal record that can interfere with a person's ability to secure a job or other benefits

A person convicted of marijuana possession most likely qualifies for Proposition 36 or drug diversion under Penal Code 1000. This option imposes a treatment program in lieu of any jail time. Upon successful completion of the program, the case is dismissed.

Many times, our California marijuana defense lawyers have been able to arrange an "informal diversion" with the district attorney or judge. The client agrees to do a short amount of community service, or attend a few N.A. meetings. In return, the court dismisses the charge altogether and no criminal record is generated.

Cultivation of Marijuana is a Felony

Under California law, "Every person who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes any marijuana or any part thereof, except as otherwise provided by law, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison." See Health & Safety Code 11358.

Those who cultivate for personal use may be eligible for diversion under Penal Code 1000, so long as there is no intent to sell. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and Senate Bill 420 allow a limited permission to cultivate marijuana for personal medical purposes.

Possession for Sale of Marijuana is a Felony

Possession of marijuana with intent to sell is a felony, regardless of the amount. See Health and Safety Code 11359. Even if no sales transactions are observed, prosecutors often charge possession for sales based on circumstantial evidence such when the police (allegedly) find:

  • Large quantities of marijuana
  • Large quantities of cash
  • Marijuana packaged in multiple baggies or bindles
  • Scales
  • Lack of pipes, papers or bongs
  • The person arrested doesn't appear high
Sales of Marijuana is a Felony

Sale, transportation or distribution of marijuana in California is a felony under Health & Safety Code 11360 and is punishable by up to four years of California state prison. Transporting or giving away one ounce or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $100.

Prosecutions for marijuana sales typically stem from either a sale to an undercover narcotics officer, or from police observation of a sales transaction among third parties. Often narcotics officers will take a hidden "surveillance position" and watch an area known for drug sales. The cops will move in and arrest the parties after they believe they've seen a transaction take place.

Also, police are making an increasing number of marijuana sales busts online. Narcotics officers monitor internet sites such as Craigslist, watching for buyers and sellers of weed to post messages. They then respond by phone or email and arrange a "controlled buy" at which they arrest the dealer.

Medical Marijuana & The Compassionate Use
Act of 1996

Under Proposition 215, patients under medical care and their primary caregivers may possess and cultivate marijuana. The patient or caregiver must have written approval from a physician, but obtaining an actual county-issued marijuana health card is safer. The pot may not be distributed or sold. Among the conditions for which the medical marijuana can be approved are:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraines
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
DUI of Marijuana in California

California Vehicle Code 23152(a) makes it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs or any combination of the two. Thousands of Californians get arrested each years for driving under the influence of marijuana. This despite compelling studies that indicate pot does not impair driving abilities.

California's Legal Definition of Marijuana

According to Health & Safety Code 11018, "Marijuana means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or its resin."

Criminal defense attorneys defending against marijuana "crimes" throughout California, including Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Orange County

Learn about Nevada marijuana laws at our article on Nevada marijuana laws.

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