California Legalized Marijuana, But Marijuana Can Still Be a Crime

California has always had some of the country’s most progressive marijuana laws. In 1996, the state became the first to formally legalize medicinal marijuana. Twenty years later, California residents voted in favor of Proposition 64, which legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Despite the fact that most marijuana use has been legalized, it can still be a crime to possess, sell, or grow the drug in California.

Those Under 21 Excluded From Legalized Marijuana Use

Proposition 64 is also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. It follows, then, that the new law only legalizes the use of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Children, teens, and young adults are still legally prohibited from possessing the drug unless they have a documented medical need. Even then, it can be difficult to obtain marijuana for a minor.

What happens when someone under the age of 21 is in possession of marijuana? The offense is an infraction. You’ll be slapped on the wrist and probably required to pay a fine.

Understanding the Effect of Proposition 64

Proposition 64 basically legalized some recreational marijuana use. There are clear limits about how much you can possess, grow, and/or sell.

Possession of Recreational Marijuana

Adults over the age of 21 may legally possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. Anyone over the age of 18 who is found in possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana can be charged with a misdemeanor. Penalties for possession of more than 28.5 grams of cannabis include a maximum of:

  • 6 months in jail;
  • $500 in fines; and
  • Summary probation.

You can also legally possess up to six marijuana plants in your own home. However, those plants must be concealed in your home and not visible to the public.

Sale of Recreational Marijuana

Even though it is legal to sell marijuana in California, the industry is highly regulated. To legally sell cannabis, you must apply for a license with the state. In order to get (and keep) your license, you must comply with strict state regulations.

What happens if you sell marijuana without a license in California? You can be charged with a misdemeanor and face penalties including:

  • 6 months in jail;
  • $500 in fines; and
  • Civil penalties of up to three times the amount of the license fee.

Using Marijuana in Public

Adults can lawfully possess small amounts of marijuana. However, there are strict limitations on where you can smoke and/or ingest the drug. State law prohibits the consumption or use of marijuana in public. You must be in a private home or place of business in which consumption is permitted.

Consuming marijuana in public is an infraction, punishable by fines of up to $250 per incident.

Don’t Use Marijuana in the Car

It’s best to keep your stash tucked away while you are in the car. It is a crime to smoke or ingest marijuana while you are in a motor vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you are a passenger or driver, or if you are pulled over to the side of the road. It can be dangerous to drive after consuming marijuana. State laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in the car help to ensure public safety. Smoking in the car can result in a fine and even be used to support criminal DUI charges.

Marijuana is Still Illegal Under Federal Law

Many states have taken substantial steps toward decriminalizing marijuana. Despite these victories, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under federal law. Schedule I substances are considered to be the most dangerous drugs and do not have any recognized medicinal use. As a result, crimes involving these drugs tend to be prosecuted aggressively.

Even though California has legalized recreational marijuana for adults, it can still be a crime to possess any amount of the drug. In other words, federal law enforcement agents have the authority to arrest you for something that is legal in the state. Under previous administrations, there was an understanding that federal agencies would respect state drug laws and not aggressively enforce conflicting federal law. Today, however, it is less clear that the federal government will stand back and let states legalize marijuana without issue.

San Diego Marijuana Attorney

Have you been arrested for a marijuana-related offense in San Diego? You need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC to schedule a free consultation. Our drug crime attorneys will review your case, determine the best strategy for defense, and explain your legal rights. The sooner we can get started on your defense, the greater your chances of success. Call us today to learn more.


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