Marijuana Crimes in California

Is Marijuana Legal?


Marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in California. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act,or Proposition 64, legalized recreational use of cannabis in November 2016 to anyone over the age of 21. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 legalized medical use of marijuana to those over 18 with a proper medical card. Both of these acts continue to be in effect.

However, it's important to remember lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to make legal cannabis work.

In fact, legalization a new concept to the country as a whole; many laws are constantly changing.The truth is the state is still figuring out the logistics. For example, it was recently reported that a law is currently in the works to expunge prior convictions or decrease ongoing sentences for prior marijuana charges. [1] The law isn't yet in effect as the bill still requires a signature from the Governor. You can follow updates concerning this issue here:

In addition, there have been struggles regulating cannabis business. In July 2018, new standards were set for labels, packaging, and distribution. [2] When this law was enacted, legal marijuana stores had to get rid of their entire supply and wait for a new one to come in. This was a big hit to people who were purchasing cannabis regularly and, in turn, caused a flood back into the illicit market.

Marijuana Laws in California

In terms of the laws set under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the state allows the following:
  • For cannabis to be consumed in a private location.
  • For people to hold a maximum of 28.5 grams, or about an ounce.
  • For people to hold up to 8 grams of concentrates.
  • For people to cultivate up to 6 plants per residency.

What the state doesn't allow is the following:

  • Consumption of cannabis in public.
  • Manufacture without licensing.
  • Operation of a vehicle while under the influence.
  • Smoking or ingesting cannabis while you're a passenger in a vehicle.
  • Possessing, ingesting, or smoking marijuana within 1,000 feet of a daycare, school, or youth center while children are present.

It should be noted, though marijuana is legal in the entire state of California, only 18 of 58 counties in the state allow legal marijuana businesses and cultivations on a business scale. Therefore, those who reside in the other 40 counties run much higher risks as marijuana is only obtainable through illegal means.

Furthermore, since cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, you aren't allowed to travel from California with marijuana through state lines. So, marijuana possession can be charged as a crime if you leave the state unless the state you enter directly has legalized cannabis as well, such as Oregon or Nevada.


There are regulations that serve as the backbone to marijuana laws and are meant to keep people safe and responsible when consuming. Furthermore, legality doesn't mean the drug is safe. Just like alcohol, marijuana comes with side effects which are often overlooked. Here you can find a list of possession penalties, but keep in mind the regulations are subject to change.

1. Possession penalties

1.1. Possession of up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate

1.2 Possession of more than one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate

1.3 Possession of up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate upon the grounds of, or within, any school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1-12, inclusive, during the hours the school is open for classes or school-related programs

1.4 Possessing, smoking, or ingesting cannabis or cannabis products in or upon the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.

1.5 Possession of cannabis for sale

1.6 Possession of an open container or package of cannabis or cannabis products while driving, operating, or riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle, boat, aircraft or other vehicle used for transportation. (Marijuana DUI).

Driving under the influence laws for marijuana work very similar to DUI alcohol laws. The only difference is law enforcement measures alcohol through blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, whereas they have no way of measuring a cannabis high. Therefore, having any amount of cannabis in your system can result in a DUI as the result of marijuana consumption.

NOTE HERE: Sometimes, house arrest or work programs are alternate sentences for jail time. Additionally, you might be a candidate for drug court and seek alternate sentencing in the state.The penalties for DUI of marijuana offenses in the State of California are as follows [3]:

1st-Time Offender

  • A fine between $390 and $1,000.
  • Jail time of anywhere between 48 hours and 6 months.
  • License suspension of up to 6 months.
  • 3 month DUI school or 30 hours of classes.
  • Up to 3 years of probation.

2nd-Time Offender

  • A fine between $390 and $1,000.
  • Jail time of anywhere between 96 hours to 1 year.
  • License suspension of up to 2 years.
  • 18 to 30 months of DUI school.
  • Up to 3 years of probation.

3rd-Time Offender

  • A fine between $390 and $1,000.
  • Jail time of anywhere between 120 days to 1 year.
  • License suspension of anywhere between 1 to 3 years.
  • 30 months of DUI school.
  • 3 to 5 years of informal probation.

These penalties become more severe if your DUI results in someone else's injury. Depending on the situation, you could be charged with a felony which results in a fine upwards of $5,000 and/or risk 16 months to 4 years in prison.If your DUI caused a fatality, you will be prosecuted under vehicular manslaughter or other of the state's murder laws. Even if the death was a result of an accident. This can lead you into a 15-year to life prison sentence.

California Family Code 3011

Reference Sources:[1] NPR: California law would expunge many marijuana related crimes
[2] Cannabis Regulations in California State
[3] DUI penalties for California
[4] SHRM: Can CA Employers Still Test for Marijuana?
[5] NIDA: What are Marijuana's Long Term Effects on the Brain?
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.