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Most people are aware that marijuana has been decriminalized in California. However many are not clear on whether it is legal or what the penalties are exactly. The bottom line is while the penalties have been relaxed substantially, it is still illegal. In California, marijuana possession is governed by California Health and Safety Code 11357, which prohibits the possession of marijuana for personal use.
Less than 28.5 Grams
On September 30, 2010 Senate Bill 1449 was signed into law, reducing the penalties for marijuana possession. Under the current law, the possession of anything under 28.5 grams is considered an infraction. An Infraction is considered a petty offense that is punishable by a minimal fine only (no more than $100) There are a few exceptions to this. If you are in possession of up to 28.5 grams but are on school grounds it is considered a misdemeanor. The penalty would be a $500 fine and up to 10 days in jail. Another exception is if you are under the age of 18. If you are in possession and under 18 years of age, the penalty is a $250 fine and up to 10 days in jail.
More Than 28.5 Grams
If you are found in possession of more than 28.5 grams, you could be charged with a misdemeanor, be charged with up to $500 in fines and probation.
California was the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. Since then, 23 states have followed suit. In order to legally use marijuana for medical use, you must receive authorization from a physician. If you have a license, you are entitled to whatever amount is deemed necessary for personal medical use.
Does Marijuana Effect Driving?
According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, at certain doses marijuana can impair motor skills and performance. Studies have shown that marijuana does not impair drivers to the extent that alcohol and legal drugs do, however. It is important to note that the amount needed to produce impairment varies, and no safe level has been established.
Marijuana Is Still Not Legal Under Federal Law
While on a federal level marijuana use is not legal, no federal agency has intervened. The Obama administration has stated that the Department of Justice would not challenge state laws as long as specific rules were followed.
If you have been charged with marijuana possession, it is important to have a qualified lawyer working on your behalf to ensure your legal rights are protected. Contact us at 866-589-3450 today and learn about what legal options are available to you. (See our article California marijuana law differs for users versus sellers.)
About the Author
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.