Major changes to California’s drug laws came with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016, but it is still possible to be arrested and imprisoned for certain drug charges. Even the possession of overly-large quantities of marijuana is grounds for arrest despite seemingly “lax” recreational marijuana reforms becoming law.
For example, the possession of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, or prescription drugs not obtained with a proper prescription (including painkillers such as hydrocodone) remains illegal under California Health and Safety Code.
In addition, Proposition 47, classifies possession of certain controlled substances as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of county jail time. This can result in a year away from your job and your family and can cost you job and housing opportunities, financial aid, or child custody in the future.
Here’s an overview of the top things to know about drug charges in California.
What is considered drug possession in California?
Many assume that possession means having a particular drug in your pocket or somewhere on your person, such as a backpack or purse, but a drug possession charge can also be incurred simply by virtue of having easy access to a substance (such as having it in your home, in your car, in a gym locker, etc.). If you share a space with someone who has drugs there, you also could face a possession charge under the assumption that the drug was accessible to you as well.
To prove possession, prosecutors first must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you possess a controlled substance and that you held it illegally (for example, without a proper prescription). It must also be proven that:
- You knew the drug was a controlled substance;
- You knew of its presence; and
- You possessed a usable amount of it (i.e. not residue).
Marijuana Possession in California
Note: The changes outlined by Proposition 64 only apply to marijuana possession within the state of California. Because marijuana is still illegally at the federal level, the following changes do not apply outside of the state.
Health & Safety Code 11357 | Possession of Marijuana (Personal Use)
If you are age 21 or older, you can legally possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis, or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis within a private residence or an establishment licensed for this consumption. If you are 18 or younger and in possession of no more than these amounts, you face an infraction punishable by mandatory drug education and community service. Anyone in possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined up to $500, and imprisoned in a county jail for up to six months. Those in possession of more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis also face a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $500.
Health and Safety Code 11362.3, 11362.768 | Marijuana in public, on/near school grounds
Smoking marijuana remains illegal in public places, anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited, and while driving a vehicle. Possession also remains illegal on the grounds of a school, day care, or youth center while children are present.
Related Health & Safety Codes to Marijuana Possession and Sales
- Health & Safety Code 11357a | Possession of Concentrated Cannabis
- Health & Safety Code 11357.5 | Sale of Synthetic Marijuana / Cannabis
- Health & Safety Code 11358 | Cultivating Marijuana
- Health & Safety Code 11359 | Possession of Marijuana (Intent to Sell)
- Health & Safety Code 11360 | Selling Marijuana
- Health & Safety Code 11361 | Selling Marijuana to a Minor
Health & Safety Code 11350 | Possession of a Controlled Substance in California
The State of California places certain regulated drugs on a schedule of controlled substances. Each falls into broad categories as follows:
- Schedule 1: opiates, opium derivatives, mescaline, peyote, cocaine, synthetic cannabis
- Schedule II: raw opium, morphine, and other narcotics
- Schedule III: hallucinogens, pentobarbital, anabolic steroids
- Schedule IV: prescription drugs such as zolpidem and diazepam
- Schedule V: lesser-controlled prescription drugs, such as low doses of codeine
Under Proposition 47, possession of certain drugs in these categories have been recategorized as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. However, this does not apply to people who do have past convictions for other violent crimes or who are registered sex offenders.
Related Health & Safety Codes:
- Health & Safety Code 11351 | Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell
- Health & Safety Code 11352 | Sales or Transportation of a Controlled Substance
- Health & Safety Code 11355 | Substitution of an Imitation Controlled Substance
Health & Safety Code 11352 | Sales or Transportation of a Controlled Substance
You also can face a “possession for sale” or “purchase for the purpose of sale” charge if authorities believe that you intended to engage in drug dealing. Transporting, importing, transferring, or selling controlled substances in California can result in a felony charge punishable by three to five years in prison. What’s more, transporting these substances from one county to another non-adjacent county in California can net you three to nine years in prison.
State law also criminalizes the transport, import, transfer, or sale of chemicals used as ingredients in manufacturing methamphetamine or phencyclidine (PCP), as well as transporting, importing, transferring, or selling these drugs. A conviction can result in sixteen months to six years in prison. Finally, any drug crime involving hiring or employing minors to sell or distribute controlled substances—or selling these substances to minors—can result in more than three years in prison.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer in Glendale, CA
If you or a loved one is facing drug charges in Los Angeles County, or if you have additional questions about California’s drug possession laws, the Parsanj Law Group are here to help you. Please call Parsanj Law Group today at (818) 273-1360 or submit your concern using the contact form.