Marijuana is a greenish mixture of dried flowers. People consume marijuana in many different forms. The mind altering chemical in marijuana is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or (THC). Every state has different laws regarding the legality of marijuana. This can also depend on what purpose the marijuana is being used for.
Under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, California marijuana laws allow for legal and recreational and medicinal use. Adult use (recreational use) was approved in the state of California on November 8, 2016.
In general, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act allows adults 21 and over to possess, and give away up to one ounce of cannabis, and to cultivate no more than six plants for personal use at their residence. On January 1, 2018 it also became legal for the sale, distribution and production of cannabis for adult use at state-licensed facilities. Although marijuana is legal in the state of California, local municipalities can restrict or ban cannabis businesses in their jurisdiction.
What is Legal and Not Legal for Recreational Marijuana Use?
What is legal and not legal for recreational cannabis laws in California depends on how the marijuana is used; below is a further explanation. It is legal to use recreational marijuana in California as long as you are 21 years or older. However, it is illegal for individuals to smoke, vape, or ingest cannabis products in a public place. If caught doing so, the individuals can be fined or severe jail time depending on the facts.
Furthermore, users are also not allowed to smoke or vape cannabis in an area labeled non-smoking. This includes 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, or any facility where children are known to be located or any other establishment that is labeled non-smoking. The only exception is if the user is in a private residence that happens to be within 1,000 feet of those establishments. Finally, they are not allowed to use cannabis when anyone under the age of 18 is around.
Anyone in a motor vehicle is not allowed to have an open container of marijuana while driving that vehicle, this includes cars or any other operational vehicle. This law is similar to the open intox rule relating to alcohol.
Private employers are allowed to still forbid cannabis use by employees, including employees using cannabis during non-working hours. These employers can test for cannabis as they choose. Private landlords and property owners can still prohibit or restrict the use of cannabis on their privately owned property. This includes any government owned buildings.
The amount of marijuana is also restricted in the state of California. For example, It is illegal to possess more than 1 ounce or (8 grams of marijuana) without an additional license from the State. It is also illegal to sell marijuana without a proper license from the State of California. So while individuals can give up to 1 ounce of marijuana, they are not able to sell it or give more than 1 ounce.
If you are charged with a violation of California’s marijuana laws but believe that you are innocent, there are several legal defenses that may protect you from a guilty charge. Some of the most common legal defenses are listed below:
- You did not have full possession of the marijuana
- You were not aware where the marijuana was located
- The marijuana was discovered during a search that was unconstitutional
- You were riding in someone else’s vehicle and the pot did not belong to you
- Someone purposely put the marijuana into your pocket, without your permission or knowledge
Finally, it is illegal to purchase marijuana within California and transport it out-of-state. This is because while marijunia is legal in California it may not be legal in other surrounding states like Utah. California is allowed to permit use and transport of marijuana within the state, but once it moves out of state then it becomes an issue that falls under federal law.
As stated above, as of 2020 marijuana is still illegal under federal law and therefore, these laws only apply to the state of California and no other jurisdictions.
What is the “Open Container” Law for Marijuana?
Similar to alcohol regulation, an “open container” is any container that holds cannabis products that have been opened. This includes any loose buds or flowers of marijuana. If individuals need to transport their legally possessed marijuana products that have been opened, then they must put them in the trunk.
Furthermore, drivers and passengers in a vehicle, like a car, boat or plane, are not allowed to use cannabis and cannabis products while the vehicle is in operation. Some of the most common examples of the open container law include:
- Having a certain amount of marijuana in a pocket of clothing while driving a motor vehicle
- After going to a legal marijuana dispensary, breaking the seal of the container of the purchased product before returning home
- Smoking or vaping marijunia while driving on the expressway
What Happens if I Use Marijuana and Drive?
As stated above, similar to driving a car under the influence of alcohol driving under the influence of marijuana is also against the law. As of January 2020, the California Penal Code has yet to specify the penalties for a cannabis DUI.
However, the penalties will most likely be similar to alcohol, which means first time offenders can face probation, fines, suspension or depending on the severity of other facts, jail time. Under California law, the use of marijuana products and driving is parallel to drinking and driving.
What Happens If a Minor Gets Caught with Weed in California?
In the state of California, you must be 21 years of age to legally possess marijuana. Anyone under age 21 who possesses marijuana can be charged with an infraction and sentenced to a fine, drug counseling or community service.
What are Some Punishments Associated with Marijuana in California?
Although, marijuana is legal to use for recreational use in California there are still punishments if not if the rules and regulations of this use are not followed. Some punishments for improper use in California include:
- Drug counseling and community service
- Up to $250 fine for first offense
- Up to 6 months in county jail; up to $500 fine
- Probation for 3 to 5 years;
- 96 hours to 6 months in county jail;
- Fine of $390 to $1,000; and
- Suspension of driver’s license for up to 6 months
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help with Marijuana Laws?
Even though possession of marijuana in California is legal, it is still possible to use cannabis illegally, which means that you can face severe penalties and fines for violating the law. California marijuana laws are brand new and can be complex. If you are in violation of California’s marijuana laws, or have questions about these laws you should contact a California criminal lawyer.
A California criminal lawyer will advise you and represent you in a court of law. Contacting a California criminal lawyer will help assure that you have your legal questions satisfied and can advise you on your options. They can also keep you updated if you have any questions about any changes to or developments to California cannabis laws.
2021 is here and after all that the industry (and everyone else) endured in 2020, there’s a lot to be hopeful for this year. But there are also several cannabis-related laws and changes California operators need to be aware of. In any case, happy 2021! Here’s what what you need to know.
New California Cannabis Laws for 2021 (Prop. 65 and more!)
- Changes to Prop. 65: This is a big one for the entire industry and it goes into effect on January 3, 2021. Changes to Prop. 65 that we covered initially back in the summer of ’20 are going to be critically important for operators to be aware of and to make adaptations to quickly. By all means read that entire blog post; but even before doing that, review the state’s Prop. 65 website with your legal counsel. Here’s the gist:
- Since cannabis smoke is now listed as a carcinogen and reproductive toxin, smokable cannabis products will require Prop 65 warnings for both cancer and developmental toxicity from cannabis smoke. If the warning isn’t on the physical product, retailers will need to ensure that proper signage is posted on site.
- Since THC is now listed as a cause of developmental toxicity, both smokable and certain non-smokable cannabis products (e.g., edibles, vape cartridges, and even CBD products with trace amounts of THC) will require Prop 65 warnings for developmental toxicity from THC.
- For emphasis, CBD operators need to be just as aware of this as operators handling THC. Why? It’s because there is no safe harbor exposure level for THC in CBD products. This is a critical vulnerability that CBD operators need to address.
- Also, all license holders along the supply chain should look into safe harbor warnings, as utilizing them is an effective way to protect your business against Prop 65 enforcement.
- AB 1872 (The Tax Freeze one): Newsom technically signed this one last week, but it’s still critically important and covered by this legislative session. 1872 suspends the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s (CDTFA) power to raise the excise tax or adjust wholesale mark-up rate for one year. Here’s more on how it will work, and here’s the gist:
- Prohibits the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration from adjusting the markup amount during the period beginning on or after the operative date of the bill, and before July 1, 2021.
- Prohibits the cultivation tax rates that are imposed in the 2021 calendar year from being adjusted for inflation unless the adjustment is for an inflation rate that is less than zero.
- Provides that beginning January 1, 2023, the rates imposed for the previous calendar year shall be adjusted by the department annually for inflation.
- Prohibits the Board of State and Community Corrections from making grants to local government that ban both indoor and outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation or that ban the retail sale of cannabis or cannabis products.
- SB 67 (The Appellation of Origin one): This one is significant and will substantially impact cultivators, manufacturers and anyone else that is concerned about cannabis packaging compliance. You can get our whole take on it here, here are some takeaways:
- SB 67 stipulates that operators are allowed to list in advertising or marketing of a product the city or county of origin only if 100% of the cannabis was produced in that city or county. Ie: An operator cannot slap “Mendocino Grown!” on a product if the product was grown in Los Angeles.
- Appellation of origin is a way for cultivators to tell the story of the area where they are growing. There are a lot of very specific requirements to detail what the area is known for, how a specific geographical feature is “considered intrinsic to the identity or character of the area,” and how cultivation practices might reflect the distinctiveness of a given area.
- AB 1458 (Testing Variance one): This bill raises the label variance threshold for edible products from plus or minus 10% to plus or minus 12% until January 1, 2022, giving edible manufacturers much needed breathing room as production technology catches up to California’s rigorous testing standards.
- AB 1525 (The Financial Information one): This bill authorizes the State or a local government to share certain financial information, upon the express consent of a cannabis licensee. AB 1525 will help financial institutions better comply with federal reporting requirements and avoid having to file costly and burdensome reports that discourage these entities from providing services to cannabis licensees altogether. The governor included a signing message directing the licensing entities to promulgate regulations to protect the privacy and confidentiality of licensee data.
- SB 1244 (The Testing one): This bill aids local agencies in enforcing against illicit cannabis activities by making clear that cannabis testing laboratories may receive and test samples from any local or state law enforcement agency or regulatory body.
In addition to these bills which Newsom passed into law, the Governor also vetoed one piece of legislation that came to his desk: AB 1470. 1470 would have amended the definition of “final form” for a product as it relates to product testing. As currently set up, there’s a lot of product and packaging waste associated with testing and this would have eliminated a lot of waste. Newsom did not necessarily disagree with the spirit of the bill, he just felt as though it were “premature” in the face of a regulatory consolidation of the three governing entities for California cannabis. Maybe next year in other words.