Overview of California Marijuana Laws

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Marijuana defined -- "Marijuana means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or resin. It does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination." California Health & Safety Code 11018.

Concentrated cannabis defined -- "Concentrated cannabis means the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from marijuana." Health & Safety Code 11006.5.

Medical marijuana defined -- "Only the dried mature processed flowers of female cannabis plant or the plant conversion shall be considered when determining allowable quantities of marijuana under this section." Health & Safety Code 11362.77(d)

Medical marijuana is legal in California for qualified individuals: Medical patients and their designated primary caregivers may legally possess HS 11357 and cultivate HS 11358, but not distribute or sell, marijuana under HS 11362.5 (Prop 215) if they have a physician's recommendation or approval. Legislation passed in 2003, SB420, created HS11362.775 extends that protection to transportation and distribution, among other exemptions.

Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor under California Health and Safety Code Section 11357. Possession of one ounce (28.5 gms) or less is punishable by a maximum $100 fine; jail time is possible for larger amounts or for hashish, which is an optional felony ("wobbler"). Possession offenders can avoid conviction by making a preguilty plea under Penal Code 1000, in which case their charges are dismissed upon successful completion of a diversion program. Possession offenses are expunged from the record after two years under Health and Safety Code Sections 11361.5 and 11361.7.

Possession with intent to sell any amount of marijuana is a felony. Health and Safety Code 11359. There is a medical exemption in HS11362.775.

Cultivation of any amount of marijuana is a felony under Health and Safety Code 11358. People who grow for personal use are eligible for diversion under Penal Code 1000 so long as there is no evidence of intent to sell. There are no fixed plant number limits to personal use cultivation. It is possible to win diversion through a Williamson Hearing.

Sale, transportation or distribution of marijuana is a felony under Health and Safety Code Sections 11360. Transporting or giving away (furnishing) one ounce or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $100 fine. There is a medical exemption in HS11362.775.

Sale or distribution to minors is a felony under Health and Safety Code 11361.

Marijuana paraphernalia is illegal to sell or manufacture, but not possess, under Health and Safety Code 11364. All marijuana paraphernalia is subject to seizure by the police.

Driving suspension for minors: Any minor (age under 21) convicted of a marijuana, alcohol, or other drug offense faces a 12-month drivers license suspension, regardless of whether the offense was driving-related. The court may allow restricted license privileges if the minor demonstrates a "critical need to drive." Vehicle Code 13202.5 . (Note: This penalty can be avoided by entering a diversion program).

Forfeiture: Unlike federal law, California law requires a conviction for forfeiture of property involved in a drug crime. Also unlike federal law, state law does not permit forfeiture of personal real estate for marijuana cultivation. Vehicles may be forfeited only if 10 pounds or more of marijuana is involved. Health and Safety Code 11470. Regarding HS11366 and 11366..5, there is a medical exemption in HS11362.775.

California Law search full text of codes: www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html

Federal Law: Marijuana is also illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Federal charges are typically brought only in large cases where commercial distribution is suspected (e.g., cultivation of several hundred plants). Text of the Controlled Substances Act.

Analysis provided by Chris Conrad and California NORML.

Safe Access Now Medical Marijuana Guidelines