California Marijuana Possession Laws

Known for their medical marijuana laws and recent developments decriminalizing small amounts of personal use marijuana, California is often seen as soft on marijuana crime. But you don’t have to be a big time dealer to know that the state does crack down on those people accused of running afoul of the existing criminal laws. If you aren’t authorized to possession medical marijuana and you are found to have more than one ounce of pot, you can still face criminal penalties.

California Marijuana Legalization

California marijuana possession lawsIn November of 2016 California voters supported Proposition 64,  a ballot initiative to legalize the marijuana. Under the new law, it is now legal to:

  • Have up to 1 ounce of dried marijuana in your possession
  • You are also allowed up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrate (wax, dabs, BHO, cannabis oil).
  • In addition, you can grow up to 6 plants per household.

It is still illegal to smoke most places in public.

It is still illegal to sell it, and there is no legal place to buy without a medical card until retail stores open in 2018.

Marijuana Possession Laws – More than 1 Ounce

Although legalization in 2016 and decriminalization since 2010 has already served to decrease the number of people charged with criminal marijuana possession, the potential is still there if you are found with more than a single ounce of pot. Most people caught in possession of marijuana are casual users. They aren’t dealers and they certainly aren’t “strung out”. Typically this is their first and only criminal charge, making it even more troubling for them.

It is illegal to possession more than one ounce of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrate.

If charged and convicted you will face a misdemeanor criminal charge and a potential six month jail sentence. You will also be fined $500.

Marijuana Distribution Laws

Despite relatively lax California marijuana possession laws, it is not hard to be charged with felony sale or distribution. Depending on the facts of your case, the prosecution may assert that you had marijuana for the purposes of distributing it or that they have evidence you did, in fact, distribute it. Evidence of pot packed into multiple bags, or other sales paraphernalia like scales, twist ties, and even cash can give prosecutors circumstantial evidence that they will use to pursue a felony offense.

Distribution of marijuana is a felony charge that carries 2 to 4 years in prison. This is a serious offense that can truly change the direction of your life.


Another potentially life changing marijuana charge, cultivation refers to growing the marijuana plant. You can be charged with cultivation if you have more than the 6 allowed home grow plants, or don’t have additional medical or legal authorization to grow more plants than that.

Cultivation of marijuana it is a felony charge. Marijuana cultivation carries a potential 16 to 26 month prison sentence.

Marijuana Possession Sentencing Alternatives/Diversion

Depending on the facts of your case and your criminal history, you may be able to avoid jail time. An informal diversion may be an option under some circumstances. This involves participation in treatment or other similar programs, after the completion of which the charges are dropped. When this isn’t an option, other formal diversions may be.

Formal diversions include Prop 36, drug courts, and Deferred Entry of Judgment. Like an informal diversion, you charges could ultimately be dropped if you satisfactorily abide by the terms of the agreement. You may be required to attend treatment, counseling, 12 step programming, and random drug testing.

Legal Help with California Marijuana Possession Laws

A California marijuana case can be a serious matter. Contact us today to consult with a local criminal defense lawyer who can help you determine the best course of action.