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What are the Recreational Marijuana Laws in California?

Drug laws are changing at home and around the country. California recently joined the ranks of states that have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, as voters passed a measure making this change last year. The growing shift away from the perception of marijuana as a dangerous drug began with the legalization of the drug in California for medicinal uses in 1996, the first state in the country to do so.

While states may be willing to declassify marijuana as an illegal substance, the federal government has not, and as more states relax laws on the use, possession, and production of marijuana, the new White House administration has responded by stating that they plan to start cracking down on marijuana growers.

California currently regulates and licenses marijuana growers as part of its medicinal program, and is in process of expanding this system to growers of marijuana for recreational use. The licensing scheme is intended to keep the marijuana supply safe and untainted. With worries the federal government plans to target these individuals as part of its drug enforcement policy, state lawmakers have proposed a bill that would block state law enforcement from cooperating with federal agents in investigations of cannabis growers.

Given that anyone could be arrested, charged, and convicted under federal law for marijuana-related activity, understanding when these California cannabis laws apply is important as the general use of this drug expands throughout the state.

California Recreational Marijuana Laws

Federal Marijuana Drug Offenses

Marijuana is regulated by the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act, which classifies it as a Schedule I substance. This means marijuana is considered highly addictive and without medical value. As a result, the possession, distribution, and cultivation of the drug are illegal, though federal agents generally only target individuals dealing in large quantities.

However, there is no minimum amount a person must possess to trip the law, so even the smallest amount could expose someone convicted of a misdemeanor offense that can bring up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines for the first offense. Subsequent convictions for possession come with mandatory jail time that can be extended to multiple-year sentences in state prison.

Thus, charges for simple possession must be taken seriously, and require the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. In addition, punishment for distribution is especially severe under federal law. In cases involving the sale of less than 50 kilograms, which constitutes the vast majority of prosecutions, defendants could receive prison sentences of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.

Sales to minors or within 1,000 feet of a school, public housing, or playground automatically double the applicable sentence.

Recreational Marijuana Laws

Proposed Bill to Prevent Law Enforcement Cooperation

Lawmakers have a bill pending in the state assembly that would prohibit state and local agencies from using resources, funds, or personnel to assist federal agencies with investigating, detaining, reporting, or arresting anyone related to any marijuana activity. The only exception to this prohibition is if there is a court order requesting assistance, but given the time and expense it would take to get official authorization, these exceptions would occur rarely.

In addition, the bill would prohibit state officials from responding to federal requests for personal information on individuals with state-issued licenses. Lawmakers see this measure as a way to support voter wishes and conserve state funds in anticipation of the federal government withdrawing monetary support from places that do not support its policies.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

No criminal charge should be taken lightly, but drug offenses are routinely subject to harsh penalties that require a more vigorous effort in response. The Los Angeles law firm Manshoory Law Group, APC understands the seriousness of a drug charge and will fight to get you the best possible result.

Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact the office for a free consultation.

Shaheen Manshoory
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