California Marijuana Laws

While marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in California, it could be illegal under certain circumstances. For example, there are specific locations that prohibit marijuana use, age limits you must abide by, and regulations that businesses must follow if they wish to sell cannabis.

Cannabis Businesses

The Department of Cannabis Control sets forth several laws and regulations businesses must abide by to sell cannabis in California. The DCC’s regulations include requirements for all aspects of a cannabis business, such as licensing, packaging and labeling, testing, and more. A business violating any of these regulations could be subject to penalties outlined in the DCC’s disciplinary guidelines.

Medical Marijuana

California Health and Safety Code § 11362.7 states that qualified patients with a serious medical condition and a valid identification card can engage in medical marijuana use. The law defines a “serious medical condition” as someone with the following conditions:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Seizures
  • Nausea

California law has no possession limits for medical marijuana as long as the amount is consistent with the patient’s needs. Additionally, patients must be 18 or older to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Recreational Use

If you choose to use marijuana recreationally, you must abide by the following laws:

  • You must be 21 years of age or older
  • You can’t consume marijuana in areas that prohibit tobacco use
  • Marijuana is not permitted within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, or youth center while kids are present
  • You can only grow up to six cannabis plants at home
  • You must keep cannabis sealed in a package or container in the trunk of your vehicle when driving
  • You cannot operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana

Federal Laws

Although marijuana is legal in California, it is still illegal under federal law. That means that areas in federal jurisdiction, such as airports and national parks, still prohibit marijuana use. It’s also against federal law to take cannabis across state lines. 

Marijuana Criminal Charges & Penalties You Could Face

Landmark legislation, such as Proposition 64, has legalized possession and cultivation of marijuana for individuals over 21. Although Prop 64 has loosened the grip that the law previously had on marijuana users, you could still face the following charges:

Drugged Driving

California Vehicle Code § 23152(f) states that it is illegal for anyone to drive a vehicle under the influence of any drug, regardless of whether it’s for medicinal purposes. If convicted, you could face the following penalties:

  • First Offense – Up to six months in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, six-month license suspension, and a mandatory DUI program.
  • Second Offense – Up to 1 year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, two-year license suspension, and a mandatory DUI program.
  • Third Offense – 120 days to 1 year in jail, fines up to $1,000, three-year license suspension, ignition interlock requirement, and a mandatory DUI program
  • Fourth Offense – 180 days to 1 year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, four-year license suspension, ignition interlock requirement, and a mandatory DUI program

Marijuana Possession

California Health and Safety Code § 11357 states that it’s a misdemeanor offense to possess less than 28.5 grams of marijuana while on school grounds, and you face ten days in jail and a $500 fine. The law also states that possessing over 28.5 grams of marijuana is also a misdemeanor offense, and you could face up to six months in jail in addition to a $500 fine.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

California Health and Safety Code § 11359 states that it’s illegal for anyone to possess and sell cannabis without a state license. This offense results in up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.


As long as you meet the necessary requirements under Proposition 64, California law permits you to grow up to six plants. However, exceeding this amount results in a misdemeanor and you could face up to six months in jail along with a $500 fine.

Possession of Hashish or Concentrates

Hashish and concentrates are marijuana products that contain high levels of THC. Due to the high amounts of THC, the state limits individuals from possessing more than eight grams. Violating this law is a misdemeanor offense, resulting in up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Defense Options for Oakland Marijuana Charges

If you find yourself facing criminal charges for marijuana in Oakland, the following defenses might be available to you:

The Marijuana Was Legal

This is a prominent defense in many cases since marijuana use is mostly considered legal as long as you possess the correct amounts and are over 21 years old. If you use marijuana for medicinal purposes, your valid identification card could help prove that you were in lawful possession of the substance.

Unlawful Search & Seizure

The fourth amendment of the United States constitution protects all citizens from unlawful search and seizure. Police must have probable cause to search you or your vehicle; if they don’t, the evidence could be thrown out of your case.

You Did Not Possess Marijuana According to the Law

There are three forms of possession: actual, constructive, and joint. Actual possession means that the drugs are directly on your person. Constructive possession means that the drugs are somewhere you can easily access them, like in the backseat of your car or in your living room.

Joint possession involves two people with either actual or constructive possession of a substance. Your attorney can assess your case to determine whether any form of possession existed at the time of your arrest.

You Might Be Eligible for Pretrial Diversion Programs

In addition to the several defenses that might be available, California Penal Code § 1000 allows you to attend a pretrial diversion program to avoid criminal penalties. This option only applies to those who meet the following requirements:

  • No prior convictions for drug-related offenses within the past five years
  • The drug charges did not involve a violent crime
  • There is no evidence of a violation relating to narcotics or restricted dangerous drugs
  • No prior felony convictions within the past five years