California marijuana laws have become more and more liberalized in recent years. Possession for personal use is still a simple misdemeanor. And possession of less than an ounce has essentially been decriminalized into an infraction (with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine).
But there's one exception to this trend: possession of concentrated cannabis (hashish) in California law. This is treated as a wobbler, meaning it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. (Read our article on the difference between felonies and misdemeanors in California.) Mere possession of concentrated cannabis, if filed as a felony, carries a penalty of up to 3 years in custody time. This puts the penalties on the same footing as serious narcotics such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
So why the disparate treatment of regular pot (buds and leaves) versus hash and hash oil? There doesn't seem to be a very logical justification, other than that the latter is more concentrated and more intoxicating per gram of the substance.
One piece of good news for California marijuana users: concentrated cannabis is covered under the state's medical marijuana laws. That is, people qualified to possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes may have and use hashish just the same as other forms of pot. (Also see our article on "How California marijuana laws differ for users versus sellers.")