Although marijuana use is illegal in California, most personal use is more or less decriminalized, requiring only that you pay a small fine. If you are arrested for possession of marijuana or related crimes, contact an attorney who is familiar with California marijuana laws to give yourself the best chances of defending yourself.

California Marijuana Laws

As of 2012, California has downgraded the personal use of marijuana from a misdemanor to an infraction. If you are caught with possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana, you’ll get a citation to appear in court, but a conviction won’t appear on your criminal record. You can’t be arrested for this type of possession unless police have probable cause to believe you intended to sell the marijuana.

Possessing larger amounts of marijuana has more serious consequences, however. Any type of large-scale possession can lead to jail time, and conviction of marijuana-related crime will remain on your permanent criminal record for the rest of your life. Intention to sell is particularly serious, as this is a felony rather than a misdemeanor. However, possession of paraphenalia such as marijuana pipes is not illegal, although it is illegal to make such paraphenalia or to sell it.

California Marijuana Posession Penalties

The penalties for possessing marijuana in California depend on two things: the amount of marijuana you possess and how old you are.

California takes marijuana use by minors especially seriously. Anyone under the age of 21 who is convicted with possession of any amount of marijuana will lose his or her driver’s license for 12 months, regardless of whether the conviction involved driving under the influence of marijuana. However, minors will be allowed a restricted license to drive to school or work. First offenders may also request to enter a diversion program rather than suffer this consequence.

Adults who possess less than 100 grams of marijuana will be fined $500 or less and will not receive a criminal conviction. However, adults who possess less than 100 grams of marijuana with intent to sell can be arrested on felony charges. Police have probable cause to make an arrest for possession with intent to sell if the person has scales or baggies in his or her possession. Selling or giving away less than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor.

Possession of marijuana in a vehicle is treated differently than simple possession. Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in your vehicle is a misdemeanor and you can be fined up to $100.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is different than merely possessing it in your car. It’s against the law and you can be charged with DUI. The police and courts treat driving under the influence of marijuana the same way they do driving udner the influence of alcohol. The police can make you take field sobriety tests and/or give you a blood or urine test, after which you can be arrested for DUI. All DUI convictions lead to jail time. A first offense usually requires 48 hours in jail, a second offense up to 96 hours in jail and a third offense up to 120 days. You will also lose your license and have to complete a DUI program in order to get it back.

California Marijuana Decriminalization

Then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger signed legislation in 2010 that would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The initiative went to the voters in November 2010. However, the measure was defeated at the ballot.

Medical Marijuana Laws

California allows people to possess marijuana for medical purposes and has done so since 1996. Patients must get a certification from their doctor stating they need marijuana for medical purposes. The patient and his or her doctor then must apply for a medical marijuana card in order for the patient to legally use marijuana for this purpose.

Hemp Laws

Hemp may be imported into California but may not be grown in California. In 2007, then-Governor Schwarzenneger vetoed legislation that would ahve allowed hemp to be grown in California.

California Marijuana Possession Charge – Defenses

First offenders can enter diversion programs, which allow them to complete rehab for marijuana addiction instead of going to jail for possession of marijuana. People who are accused of DUI may also be able to defend themselves by stating that they had used marijuana in the past but were not under its influence at the time of their arrest.