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California’s Current Marijuana Laws

Orange County Dispensary Owner Sentenced

California’s Marijuana Possession Laws

In California, the possession of marijuana was largely decriminalized on January 1, 2011. This date marked the passage of a law that essentially made the possession of 28.5 grams of marijuana or less a mere civil infraction. The only penalty for this offense is a $100 fine, although the fees added during the California legal process increases the actual amount to $480. This civil infraction also does not result in a criminal record for the offender.

For possession of marijuana in amounts exceeding 28.5 grams, the offender may face a 6-month jail sentence and a $500 fine. Cases involving the possession of hashish or concentrated cannabis may be considered a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case. However, Proposition 36 gives first – and second – offenders the option to seek drug treatment instead of jail. Upon completion of treatment, the conviction will be erased.

Individuals charged with marijuana possession or cultivation for personal use may also avoid conviction by entering a pre-guilty plea as mandated by Penal Code 1,000. For such individuals, the charges will be dropped after the offender successfully completes a diversion program.


“Intent To Sell”

While the possession of marijuana in amounts of 28.5 grams of marijuana or less is not an arrestable offense under California law, some cases may be considered intent to sell, which is a felony offense under Health and Safety Code 11359. There are a number of extenuating circumstances that may compel law enforcement officers to consider the possession of 28.5 grams of marijuana felony intent to sell. These include the presence of scales, packaging materials, cash, and financial documents.

Cultivation, Transportation, and Distribution Laws

Under Health and Safety Code Sections 11360, the sale, transport and distribution of marijuana is a felony offense. Cases involving the transport or giving away of marijuana in amounts of 28.5 grams of marijuana or less is a misdemeanor offense that merits a $100 fine. With all the fees added in the course of the California legal process however, the total amount that the offender will have to pay may reach up to $480.

Marijuana Gavel

In California, the sale of marijuana or the distribution of marijuana to minors are considered felony offenses under the state Health and Safety Code 11361. The cultivation of marijuana in any amount is also considered a felony under Health and Safety Code 11358. In cases involving the cultivation of marijuana for personal use, offenders may be able to secure diversion under guidelines set by Penal Code 1,000, as long as the offender is not found to have intent to sell. Patients that are legally allowed to cultivate marijuana for medical reasons are not subject to any limitations in the number of plants that they can cultivate for personal use.

Under California law, certain individuals may possess and cultivate marijuana in limited amounts, provided that they do not sell or distribute it. This privilege is provided under Health and Safety Code 11362.5 (also known as Proposition 215) upon the recommendation of a doctor. Medical marijuana patients may also maintain 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants under state law SB420.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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