Health and Safety Code 11357.5 HS – Sale of Synthetic Cannabis

Health and Safety Code 11357.5 HS is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to either:

  1. sell or give synthetic cannabis (marijuana) to someone, or
  2. use or possess synthetic cannabis.

According to this statute:

“Every person who sells, dispenses, distributes, furnishes, administers, or gives, or offers to sell, dispense, distribute, furnish, administer, or give, or possesses for sale any synthetic cannabinoid compound, or any synthetic cannabinoid derivative, to any person, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed six months, or by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Every person who uses or possesses any synthetic cannabinoid compound, or any synthetic cannabinoid derivative, is guilty of a public offense…”

Examples of criminal acts under HSC 11357.5 include:

  • Carlos sells a bag of synthetic cannabis to a neighborhood kid.
  • John goes to a concert and takes a pouch of synthetic cannabis with him in his backpack.
  • Juanita gives her boyfriend a packet of synthetic cannabis that she got from a friend.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under this code section. These include showing that:

  • there was no synthetic cannabis involved,
  • there was no possession, and/or
  • the defendant was falsely accused.

Penalties

The illegal sale of this drug is a misdemeanor (as opposed to a felony). The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

The illegal possession or use of the same can be charged as either an infraction or a misdemeanor depending on the number of times the offense was committed. The punishment can include:

  • a fine, or
  • a jail term of up to six months.

Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

synthetic marijuana

1. What is prohibited under Health and Safety Code 11357.5 HSC?

Health and Safety Code 11357.5 is the California statute that makes it a crime to:

  • sell,
  • dispense,
  • distribute,
  • furnish,
  • administer,
  • give, or
  • offer to sell or give

any synthetic cannabinoid compound or derivative.1

The statute also makes it a crime for a person to use or possess the same.2

Synthetic cannabis is a so-called “designer drug” and it is essentially fake marijuana. Common names for it include:

  • potpourri,
  • herbal incense,
  • spice,
  • K2, and
  • Black mamba.

The active ingredients in the drug are made in a laboratory and they mimic the effects of THC, which is the main ingredient in marijuana.

2. Are there legal defenses to accusations of violating Health and Safety Code 11357.5?

A person accused of violating this statute can raise a legal defense. A good defense can work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses to alleged violations of this statute are:

  1. no synthetic cannabis,
  2. no possession, and/or
  3. falsely accused.

2.1. No synthetic cannabis

Please note that HSC 11357.5 only applies to synthetic cannabis. Thus, a solid legal defense is for a party to show that, while he may have sold or used a drug, it was not synthetic cannabis.

2.2. No possession

A person is guilty under this statute if he possesses synthetic cannabis, which typically means the person has the drug on him or in his reach or control. This means a good legal defense is for an accused to show that he did not have the drug on his person or within his reach.

2.3. Falsely accused

Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for people to get prosecuted based on false allegations. People get falsely accused out of

  • jealousy,
  • revenge, and
  • anger.

Thus, it is a valid defense for a defendant to say that a party falsely accused him of violating HSC 11357.5.

man behind bars

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

The illegal sale of synthetic cannabis is a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.3

The illegal possession or use of the same can be charged as either an infraction or a misdemeanor depending on the number of times the offense was committed. The punishment can include:

  • a fine, or
  • a jail term of up to six months.4

Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to the sale or possession of synthetic cannabis. These are:

  1. sale of synthetic stimulants – HSC 11375.5,
  2. sale or transportation of a controlled substance – HSC 11352, and
  3. operating or maintaining a drug house – HSC 11366.

4.1. Sale of synthetic stimulants – HSC 11375.5

Health and Safety Code 11375.5 is the California statute on synthetic stimulants.

The statute makes it a crime for a person to either:

  1. sell or give someone a synthetic stimulant, or
  2. use or possess a synthetic stimulant.5

The illegal sale of a synthetic stimulant is a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.6

The illegal possession or use of the same can be charged as either an infraction or a misdemeanor depending on the number of times the offense is committed. The punishment can include:

  • a fine, or
  • a jail term of up to six months.7

4.2. Sale or transportation of a controlled substance – HSC 11352

California Health and Safety Code 11352 HS prohibits selling or transporting certain controlled substances. These substances include:

  • cocaine,
  • heroin,
  • peyote,
  • LSD, and
  • commonly prescribed opiates such as codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).

HS 11352 does not apply to the sale and transportation of marijuana, methamphetamine, or certain other drugs.

Selling or transporting drugs is a California felony.8 The crime is punishable by:

  • three to nine years in jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $20,000.9

4.3. Operating or maintaining a drug house – HSC 11366

California Health & Safety Code 11366 HS makes it a crime to operate or maintain any place for the purpose of unlawfully selling or giving away illegal controlled substances.10

This crime is often referred to informally as “operating a drug house.”

A violation of HSC 11366 is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.11

The penalties for a felony conviction are:

Were you accused of selling or using synthetic cannabis in California? Call us for help…

criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Health and Safety Code 11357.5, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For similar charges in Colorado, please see our article on: Colorado's Laws on Synthetic Marijuana and Salvia (18-18-406.1 and 18-18-406.2 C.R.S.). And for similar charges in Nevada, please see our article on: Nevada's Law on Fake Marijuana (“Spice”) Explained by Las Vegas Drug Lawyers.


Legal References:

  1. California Health and Safety Code 11357.5 HSC. This code section states the following: “(a) Every person who sells, dispenses, distributes, furnishes, administers, or gives, or offers to sell, dispense, distribute, furnish, administer, or give, or possesses for sale any synthetic cannabinoid compound, or any synthetic cannabinoid derivative, to any person, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed six months, or by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

    (b) Every person who uses or possesses any synthetic cannabinoid compound, or any synthetic cannabinoid derivative, is guilty of a public offense…”

  2. See same.

  3. California Health and Safety Code 11357.5a HSC.

  4. California Health and Safety Code 11357.5b HSC.

  5. California Health and Safety Code 11375.5 HSC.

  6. See same.

  7. See same.

  8. California Health and Safety Code 11352 HSC.

  9. See same.

  10. California Health and Safety Code 11366 HSC.

  11. See same.

  12. See same.

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