What are the Penalties for Possession of Marijuana?

Looking back, California has been one of the most cannabis tolerant states in the United States. In 1975, California decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and legalized it for medical use in 1996. Though possession of marijuana remains banned by federal law, nevertheless, on November 8, 2016, California voters passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, Proposition 64. According to the proposition, recreational possession of marijuana for adults over the age 21 became legal. However, the law still maintains boundaries, beyond which possession of marijuana may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Let us look at some of them:

Possession for Personal Use Over 28.5 Gram

Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment. A fine up to $500 may be imposed as well. In cases when the possessed amount is 28.5 grams or even less, but the person is under the age of 21 possessing marijuana on school grounds, the offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 10 days imprisonment and fine up to $500.


A person will be subject to 6 months imprisonment and a fine of $500 when his or her possession of marijuana is over the one-ounce limit with intent to distribute.

 Sale and Delivery

If someone does not possess a state license to sell or deliver any amount of marijuana, his or her action is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of $500.

 Hashish and Concentrates

The penalties related to the manufacture of hashish or concentrates depend on the methods, which the manufacturer uses. For example, if the manufacturing process involves extraction chemicals (e.g. butane), the manufacturer will face a fine no greater than $50,000 and imprisonment of 3, 5, or 7 years. If the manufacturing process utilizes screens, presses, or other means not involving any chemical synthesis, the manufacturer’s activity is considered an unauthorized processing of marijuana. The penalties in such cases may reach up to 3 years of imprisonment.

Minors and Marijuana

If someone involves a minor in the unlawful sale or transport of marijuana, his or her action is a felony punishable by 3 to 7 years imprisonment. Moreover, if someone induces a minor to use marijuana, such action will also be punishable by 3 to 7 years imprisonment.

Driving Under Influence

California laws forbid drivers from driving a motor vehicle if they have a detectable level of an illicit drug present in their body.

Thus, Proposition 64 prohibits:

  • Smoking or consumption of marijuana in any “public place” or while driving
  • Possession on school grounds
  • Possession of an open container of marijuana while driving or riding in a motor vehicle

Medical Possession of Marijuana

According to some medical research, cannabis is a rather effective treatment for a wide range of diseases. Its positive influence may affect pain relief, glaucoma, movement disorders, etc. Marijuana may also be an appetite stimulant and neuroprotective. Taking these and other circumstances into consideration, California state law considers the medical possession of marijuana lawful.

Proposition 64: Marijuana Taxation

Proposition 64 legalized the possession of marijuana except for the above-referenced cases. However, there are two new taxes on marijuana envisaged by the law.

”A cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation.”

”A 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana.”

Moreover, the revenue from the taxes will go to a new California Marijuana Fund. The fund will cover costs of administrating and enforcing the measures. Drug research, treatment, enforcement, etc. will get some allocation as well. Some part of the revenue will be allocated to youth programs, such as drug education, prevention, treatment, and so on.

Do You Need an Attorney?

Generally, when one decides to start a business, he or she may do so without an attorney involved. However, there are some business types when an attorney is necessary. One of them is a marijuana business, which has specific reasons to involve an attorney even from the very beginning. As mentioned above, marijuana remains an illegal drug under United States federal law, though being legal under some state laws including California. A knowledgeable attorney will help you simplify the process and ensure your marijuana business protection from existing legal risks.

Our experienced attorneys will not only navigate the complicated and rapidly changing state requirements but also will avoid federal prosecution. This is your chance to have legal protection with the help of The Margarian Law Firm attorneys. Do not miss your chance; contact us now for a consultation.



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