California laws providing for marijuana possession and use have changed drastically. After the approval of Proposition 64 in 2018, marijuana, or recreational use, was legalized in the state. Although marijuana possession and personal use are legal in California, some acts, like selling marijuana to minors, marijuana cultivation, and possession of large quantities of the substance, can attract arrests and criminal charges.

The consequences of a conviction for violating marijuana-related drug convictions in California go beyond incarceration and fines. After serving a prison or jail sentence, the conviction will go into your criminal record, open to public access. When the conviction appears on your background checks, it can be used to discriminate against you. Therefore, you will require legal insight if you or a loved one faces charges for these crimes.

At Monterey Criminal Attorney, we understand how a drug crime conviction can impact your life. We offer top-notch legal guidance for clients facing marijuana-related charges in Monterey, CA.

Understanding Marijuana Laws

For up to three decades, the California criminal justice system has increased resources to ensure the arrest, prosecution, and punishment of drug offenders. A violation of drug crime laws attracts severe charges whose consequences can last a lifetime. Drugs or controlled substances are classified into different categories depending on their impact on a person’s mental and physical state.

Marijuana is a commonly abused drug in the state. This is because the substance is easier to cultivate and obtain. Under California law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes is legal. Even though marijuana is legal in California, it is still treated as a controlled substance.

This is because its use in large quantities or by certain groups of individuals can have devastating mental health and behavioral effects. For this reason, you must understand the following rules imposed for the possession, sale, and use of this substance:

  • You can legally purchase or possess recreational marijuana if you are over 21 years old. Minors found in possession of the substance will be arrested and charged with possession, regardless of the quantity of marijuana.
  • You can possess up to 28.5 grams of dried cannabis or 8 grams of cannabis concentrates like chocolate or gummies.
  • Even when you use the legal quantity of marijuana, you should not drive a vehicle or a motorcycle.
  • If you possess cannabis for recreational use in your vehicle, it should be in a sealed container or the trunk while in transit.
  • You should not sell or involve an individual under the age of 21.
  • Cannabis should be used or smoked in private areas. Engaging in such conduct in public could result in an arrest and criminal charges. Other places where it is illegal to smoke cannabis include near youth centers or around schools.
  • Although cannabis for recreation is legal in California, possession or use of the substance on federal property is a serious offense.
  • You should not smoke cannabis in areas where the substance is strictly prohibited. For example, you may have a right to smoke marijuana in your apartment, which is considered a private place. However, a property owner or landlord can prohibit the action.
  • It is illegal to travel with marijuana across state lines, even when it is meat for recreational use.
  • You must have a valid license from the state to sell marijuana.

Violation of Different Marijuana Laws in California

Marijuana for recreational use is legal in California if you are over twenty-one years old and you adhere to the laws on allowed quantities of possession. However, you can still be arrested and charged with these offenses for violating different marijuana laws:

Possession of Marijuana

You can be arrested and charged under California HS 11357 for the unlawful possession of marijuana. Although the possession and use of the substance for recreation is legal, the law has limited the quantity of the substance you can possess. You can be arrested and charged under this statute under the following circumstances:

  • You possess more than the legally accepted quantity of marijuana.
  • You are under twenty-one years old and in possession of marijuana. Even after marijuana legalization, its possession and use are restricted to individuals over 21 years old.
  • You possess marijuana in a K–12 school.

If you face an arrest under these circumstances, the court will require the prosecution to establish that you knew of the presence of marijuana and its nature as a controlled substance.

The nature of the charges you will face for possession of marijuana will vary depending on the circumstances under which you were arrested. Possession of excessive quantities of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and $500 fines. As a first-time offender, you can be sent to probation or a drug diversion program instead of incarceration.

For minors under twenty-one years of age in possession of marijuana, the punishment for the offense includes fines, drug counseling, and community service. If you face an arrest for possession of marijuana on school grounds, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.  Your conviction for the offense will result in a maximum of six months in jail for adults or enrollment in a drug treatment program for minors.

Possession with an Intent to Sell Marijuana

California HSC 11359 makes it a crime to possess marijuana to sell it. You risk facing severe criminal charges if you possess a controlled substance with the intent to sell it. Before your conviction for this crime, the prosecution must establish these facts:

  • You possessed a controlled substance. Under California law, possession of a drug could be actual or constructive. Actual possession means that the controlled substance is in your pocket or bag. On the other hand, constructive possession could mean that you have control over the substance. Sometimes, you will be arrested if the officers believe that you jointly possess marijuana with another person.
  • You knew of the presence of the substance. You cannot be arrested for possessing a substance you didn't know existed. Therefore, the prosecution must have enough evidence to prove that you knew of the presence of the drug.
  • You knew its nature as a controlled substance. Another requirement for proving that you possess marijuana for sale is your knowledge of the fact that the substance you possess is controlled. Some aspects that could help the prosecution prove this element include attempts to conceal the substance from the police and appearing nervous as law enforcement officers search.
  • The substance was marijuana. You will be arrested and charged under HSC 11359 if the controlled substance you possess is marijuana or a marijuana product.
  • The controlled substance was in a usable amount. You will be found liable for possession of marijuana for sale if the amount of the substance you possess is usable. This means that the substance is enough to impact the user’s mental capacity.
  • You intended to sell the marijuana. The most critical element of HSC 11359 is your intent to sell marijuana. Since possession of marijuana for recreation is legal in California, the district attorney must prove your intentions to sell the substance before securing a conviction under this statute. Police officers often go undercover and pose as buyers with the intent of catching individuals engaging in the sale of marijuana. Another element that could help prove your intent to sell is possessing a high quantity and packaging of the substance.

Possession of marijuana with the intent to sell it is a misdemeanor punished by a six-month jail sentence. For defendants with a prior conviction for a sex crime against a child or are a repeat offender under this statute, you will face felony charges. A felony conviction under HSC 11359 attracts a maximum sentence of three years.

Besides incarceration and fines, a conviction for possession of marijuana for sale can taint your criminal record and impact your future career prospects. For this reason, seeking the insight of a drug crime defense lawyer is critical. Your lawyer will help you build a defense by presenting counter-evidence and attacking the prosecution’s case.

Sale of Marijuana to Minors

California Health and Safety Code 11361 addresses the sale and furnishing of marijuana to minors. You can be arrested for this offense if you engage in the following acts:

  • Employ a person under eighteen years old to sell, transport, or distribute marijuana.
  • You sell or administer marijuana to a juvenile.
  • You induce a minor to use marijuana.

Any act that could cause a child to engage in the possession, purchase, sale, or use of marijuana will attract criminal charges for this crime. You will be found guilty of violating HSC 11361 if the prosecution can prove the following elements:

  • Yu furnished, sold, or provided a minor with marijuana.
  • You knew or should have known that the drug recipient was a minor.
  • You knew that the substance you provided to the child was controlled in California.
  • The marijuana you sold or provided to the child was in a usable amount.

The sale of marijuana to minors is always charged as a felony. This means the prosecution cannot reduce the charge to a misdemeanor at any stage of the case. The severity of the penalties you will face varies depending on the minor's age to whom you sold or furnished the controlled substance.

If the minor is under fourteen, you will face a maximum prison sentence of seven years. On the other hand, cases involving minors between the ages of fourteen and eighteen attract a prison sentence not exceeding five years. In addition to incarceration, you will face hefty fines.

Selling or Transporting of Marijuana

Transportation and sales of marijuana are strictly regulated in California. Selling the controlled substance without the proper licensing can result in an arrest and criminal charges under California HSC 11360. Before you are convicted of the offense, the prosecuting attorney must prove these elements:

  • You furnished, sold, transported, or gave away a usable amount of marijuana.
  • You did not have the required licensing.
  • You knew of the presence of marijuana and its nature as a controlled substance in the state.

The transportation of marijuana involves moving the substance between locations. This could be done by walking or using a motor vehicle. The transport and sale of marijuana can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances. Some factors that could impact how your crime is charged include the quantity of the substance involved and your criminal record.

The offense is punished by a six-month sentence and up to $500 in fines as a misdemeanor. If you face felony charges for the crime, you could spend a maximum of four years in prison.

Cultivation of Marijuana

The cultivation of marijuana for recreational use is legal for individuals over 21 years old in California. However, you must follow the municipality's rules and cultivate a maximum of six plants. Although a cultivation license is unnecessary, you must grow the plant in a locked area without public visibility.

You can be arrested and charged with unlawful cultivation of marijuana if you cultivate more than the accepted number of plants, you grow marijuana in public places, or you are under twenty-one years old. The cultivation of more than six plants of marijuana is charged as a misdemeanor under HSC 11358. The offense is punishable by up to six months in jail and up to $500 in fines.

If you are a registered sex offender or have multiple convictions under this statute, you risk facing felony charges. As a felony, marijuana cultivation is punishable by a three-year in prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines.

Possession of an Open Container of Marijuana in a Motor vehicle

California law prohibits the transportation of marijuana in an open container while driving a vehicle. You can be arrested and convicted under California VC 23222 if the prosecution can prove that:

  • You drove a motor vehicle on a highway.
  • While driving the vehicle, you had an open container of marijuana in the car.

Possession of an open container of marijuana in a motor vehicle is an infraction punished by a $250 fine for a first offense. If you are a repeat offender, you could face harsher penalties, including incarceration.

Medical Marijuana Laws

The medical marijuana regulations remain the same even after the legalization of recreational marijuana for individuals over 21 years old. The provisions on medical marijuana are set forth under Health and Safety Code 11362, and they favor patients of different conditions over the purchase of this type of marijuana by retailers.

You may be entitled to purchase or use medical marijuana under the following circumstances:

  • You are a licensed physician in California.
  • You need marijuana for the treatment of severe medical conditions like cancer, chronic pain, seizures, or glaucoma.

Unlike popular belief, you do not need a medical marijuana card to qualify for medical marijuana. However, having it can help police officers prove your entitlement. Usually, individuals with a current medical marijuana card cannot be arrested or charged with a crime for possession, transportation, or cultivation of marijuana.

However, you can still face legal charges if the officer determines that the card was obtained fraudulently or contains false information. Obtaining a medical marijuana card involves applying to a department of health in your county. A legal medical marijuana user can cultivate, transport, and use the substance for personal or medical purposes.

As a medical marijuana user, you can possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana or grow up to six mature plants. With a recommendation from your doctor, you can possess more marijuana, which is consistent with the nature of your treatment. Even as a legal user, you must adhere to other marijuana laws in the state. Therefore, smoking or using the substance in prohibited areas can result in severe legal action.

In addition to patients and licensed healthcare practitioners, other individuals who can legally possess medical marijuana are the primary caregivers of patients battling chronic conditions. The caregiver, in this case, must be over eighteen years old. Additionally, they must assume responsibility for a medical marijuana patient.

Although primary caregivers do not need a medical marijuana ID, it would help avoid an arrest for possession, cultivation, or administering marijuana. If you are arrested for a marijuana-related offense as a caregiver, you must prove these facts to avoid prosecution:

  • You are a designated caregiver for a legal medical marijuana user. You can do this by presenting your medical marijuana card or that of the person under your care.
  • You are constantly responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of the medical marijuana user.
  • You assumed the role of a caregiver before the person started taking medical marijuana.

You must understand that while medical marijuana is legal in California, you could still face charges for possession, transportation, or cultivation under federal law.

Federal Marijuana Laws

The legality of marijuana has been on the rise in the United States. As of August 2023, up to twenty-three states, including California, have legalized the use of the substance for recreational purposes, while thirty-seven states have made the use of marijuana for medical purposes legal. It may be surprising to many California residents that possession, use, and sale of marijuana is a federal crime, even though it is legal in the state.

Like cocaine and heroin, marijuana is a controlled substance under federal laws. The central conflict with marijuana laws is that you can be arrested and charged with a federal crime for engaging in conduct that is legal under California law. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the distribution, sale, and use of marijuana attract drug crime charges.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance, which means it can be used for medical treatment and does not have a high abuse or dependence rate. Common federal offenses involving marijuana include:

  • A conviction for possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine for first-time offenders. If you have a prior drug conviction on your record, you risk facing up to two years in federal prison for the offense.
  • Distribution or possession with the intent to distribute. If you distribute marijuana to other people or if you have the substance with the intent to distribute it, you risk facing felony charges. A conviction for these offenses will attract a prison sentence of up to twenty years and fines of up to $5 million.
  • Provision of services for a business that sells marijuana. Even when you are not directly involved in the sale or distribution of marijuana, you can find yourself in serious legal trouble for the provision of essential services for a business that operates under state marijuana laws.

In addition to incarceration and hefty fines, your conviction for violating federal marijuana laws can have devastating effects on your personal and professional lives. This could include discrimination during job searches or the denial of a lease. Additionally, being convicted of a drug crime in federal court can cause social stigma.

If you are charged with a federal marijuana-related offense, you should consult with a knowledgeable drug crime defense lawyer.

Find a Skilled Defense Attorney Near Me

While simple possession of marijuana for recreational or medical use is legal in California, some laws govern the sale, use, and possession of the substance. These laws dictate the age limits for possession of marijuana, the amount whose possession is legal, and the requirement for sale, among others. For this reason, you can still be arrested and charged with a severe offense for violating these rules.

Common drug crimes involving marijuana include possession of the substance by minors, transportation, cultivation, and sale by unauthorized individuals. California has strict laws for individuals facing drug crime charges in the state. A drug-crime conviction could have severe legal and collateral consequences. Even after serving in jail or prison, you will have a tainted criminal history that will impact your personal and professional lives.

Therefore, if you or a loved one faces an arrest for a marijuana-related crime in Monterey, CA, you will benefit from the legal insight we offer at Monterey Criminal Attorney. Our skilled lawyers will help build a solid defense and ensure a favorable case outcome. Call us today at 831-574-1791 for much-needed legal insight.