The attitude across the country about marijuana continues to trend toward acceptance and legalization for both medical and recreational use. The government realizes numbers are growing, and with that, new laws are being put into place to make sure that marijuana gets safely and fairly regulated.
The wise marijuana user will study up on the drug possession laws in California. It is important to know just how much marijuana you can legally possess, where you can and cannot use it, what happens when you are caught with pot, and steps toward obtaining a medical marijuana card.
Marijuana for Personal Use
You cannot yet legally possess marijuana for personal recreational use (“simple possession”) in the state of California even though you may carry marijuana with a valid doctor’s recommendation. California has decriminalized the simple possession of marijuana in the regulations and penalties set down by the state in Health and Safety Code 11357 HS. The number to keep in mind is 28.5 grams (about one ounce) if you make the choice to carry weed on your person or in your vehicle. Simple possession of marijuana not exceeding 28.5 grams is only punishable by a $100 fine; you will not see jail time if charged with simple possession because you are committing a non-criminal infraction of the law and not a crime.
However, if your possession happens near or on a school campus (grades K-12), you move into the penalty category of a misdemeanor. Possession of 28.5 grams or less on school grounds by someone 18 years of age or older can carry a sentence of 10 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500. If you are under 18, fines will be assessed immediately, and with your second offense, you can expect a visit to juvenile detention. Simple possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana will bring a misdemeanor punishment of six months of jail time and a maximum fine of $500.
The strongest penalties for possessing marijuana for personal use are reserved for concentrated cannabis, also known as “oil,” “wax” or “shatter.” Whereas the typical marijuana leaf contains about 30 percent or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive chemical in marijuana, concentrated cannabis can be more than 80 percent pure THC. And with that much of the active ingredient, concentrated cannabis is held to a much higher legal standard, carrying jail time of up to three years if the penalty gets categorized as a felony.
Each category of drug possession laws for marijuana gets regulated by Health and Safety Code section 11357-11362.9. Those categories include marijuana cultivation, possession with the intent to sell, selling marijuana to a minor, and legal codes regarding the movement, gifting or importing of marijuana.
California Proposition 215 made medical marijuana legal. Also known as the Compassionate Use Act (“CUA”) of 1996, this determined who could use marijuana for medical purposes. The CUA stands “to ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.” With the passing of this proposition, many medical dispensaries and “green doctor” clinics around California opened for business.
How do you qualify for a medical marijuana license? First, you will need to determine if your medical condition is covered. If your condition is listed above in the CUA, chances are you will qualify. In order to apply for the card, you’ll need to find a doctor who is licensed to prescribe medicinal marijuana. That doctor will discuss your condition, your medical history, and make a final determination of whether you are a good candidate for medical marijuana treatment. If so, you will fill out an application, the doctor will write you a recommendation (often called a “rec”), and you’ll pay anywhere from $60 to $250, depending on the area.
If you have any questions about the law regarding possession of marijuana, contact the experienced attorneys at The Liskey Law Firm in Pasadena.