California Marijuana Laws and Drug Possession

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California Marijuana Laws and Possession of Drugs

California’s laws pertaining to marijuana are complex and vast from legal possession for medical justifications to criminalized sales, including the cultivation as well as the importing of the plant.  

The War for Marijuana

Over the past few years there has been a war between federal and state governments about the legal and illegal use of marijuana under current criminal drug laws. On one end of the spectrum, simple possession laws about marijuana statues exist, such as Health and Safety Code Section 11357(b). This makes the possession of one ounce or less of cannabis for personal use a misdemeanor. Although the code still classifies this as a criminal offense, if convicted the maximum punishment if only a $100 fine, with no jail time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, laws exist to prohibit the importing of large quantities of marijuana across federal borders. These laws also cover the mass cultivation of marijuana for the purpose of selling it.

California’s medical marijuana laws permit persons who have a doctor’s permission to possess and use cannabis for medical purposes. The permission to cultivate it has certain limitations. Caregivers for a person who has a doctor’s permission permits them to purchase medicinal marijuana from marijuana dispensaries in order to give it to the patient for their use. The transportation of medical marijuana is a gray area. In addition, many police agencies are under the incorrect assumption that concentrated cannabis isn’t included in the compassionate use laws, although it is.

Driving and Marijuana Possession

Problems arise where involving cases of using marijuana and driving. While it is legal for persons with prescriptions to possess marijuana and use it, it is still prohibited to drive while under the influence of it. Vehicle Code Section 23152 not only governs the use of driving while under the influence of alcohol but also drugs. It clearly states that if a person is driving and “under the influence of marijuana” then they can be found guilty of DUI.

However, determining the level of impairment of a person using marijuana isn’t as easy as if they’re under the influence of alcohol which has a specific level of illegality. Using a urine test to detect a person has used cannabis can also be problematic, since it then has to be correlated with some level of impairment. An experienced DUI attorney, such as Sevens Legal, APC, can defend most cases of marijuana involved DUI.

Similar to this is a DWI where a vehicle is found to contain a small amount of cannabis, either in a small baggy, container, or pipe. Due to the fact that the marijuana is found in the car, a crime under Vehicle Code 23222 is usually charged instead of a charge under Health and Safety Code Section 11357(b). There is a major difference between these two convictions. An offense under Vehicle Code 23222 is considered a moving violation and will therefore appear on the person’s driving record. This involves points which likely will increase insurance premiums, possible job loss, etc. A wise decision if faced with this situation is to hire an attorney familiar with this scenario, such as Sevens Legal, APC, who can help you avoid being charged under Vehicle Code 23222 instead of Health and Safety Code Section 11357(b).

Marijuana Pipes and “Usable Quantity”

It’s interesting to note that it’s not a California crime to possess a marijuana smoking pipe, which is not considered under Health and Safety Code 11364 to be drug paraphernalia. However, police may still attempt to charge you with alleged possession if the pipe contains any marijuana in the bowl, but the amount must be considered to be a “usable quantity.”

Some questions you may ask about whether you can be found guilty of marijuana possession if it’s not actually on your person, such as in a car that you are simply a passenger in. According to the law which relates to possession, two elements are required to prove this:

  • Knowledge that it exists
  • Ability to control it

In other words, the person accused of possession must have had knowledge that the marijuana existed and either must have been able to control it or have it located on their person, in their own car, in their own house, etc. This law also recognizes joint possession, which is where two or more people can be found to be in possession of the same item. Under this law it doesn’t matter who is the actual owner of the item.

Possession of Prescription Drugs

In addition to marijuana now being a legal drug if one has a prescription for it, drug possession also includes drug prescriptions for Xanax, Valium or Diazepam, Vicodin, Norco, Percocet, Hydrocodone, Clonazepam, Oxycodone, and Soma. While these substances have their legitimate uses, frequently they are abused. A recent Los Angeles Times article referred to them as “deadliest drugs.”

Law enforcement has requested pharmacists notify them if they suspect any suspicious activity or if they suspect questionable prescriptions possibly forged by addicts. California laws have cracked down on drugs such as these, and will probably get tougher as people continue to misuse these substances. The attorneys at Sevens Legal, APC, has extensive experience with these type of crimes and can assist you with getting into an addiction treatment program instead of jail if you have been accused of unlawful possession of drugs.

Sevens Legal, APC, has an experienced background of defending narcotics cases, using innovative approaches. Some common controlled substances and charges include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Possession with intent to sell
  • Under the influence of controlled substance
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Simple Possession
  • Transportation
  • Sales of Narcotics
  • Prescription drugs
  • Possession of drugs while armed
  • Maintaining a residence for sales
  • Medical Marijuana
  • Trafficking and Hidden Compartments
  • Possession while armed with a firearm
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

In California most drug charges are felonies. If convicted of a felony, you may face jail time, loss of rights, and a permanent police. While these are serious charges, with the right attorney they may be dropped. Legal defense that have been used include:

  • Challenging the search on Fourth Amendment grounds
  • Transitory Possession
  • Violations of Fifth Amendment, Miranda
  • Insufficient Evidence of Knowledge
  • Lack of Intent
  • Illegal Traffic Stop, No Probable Cause
  • Lack of Dominion or Control
  • Police Misconduct, False reports
  • Statutory Motions to Dismiss
  • Laboratory Testing Error
  • Lying Police Informants
  • Toxicology Mistakes

There are numerous ways to fight drug charges in order to get an early disposition using diversion and alternative sentencing agreements which may permit a case to be dismissed following drug counseling, a drug treatment program, or drug treatment classes.

If a drug charge is dismissed, it means the person does not need to disclose a possible criminal conviction on a job or employment application, thus saving them from a lifelong stigma, as well as embarrassment, of a drug conviction.   If you have been arrested or accused of drug possession for prescription pills, marijuana, concentrated cannabis, medical marijuana, Ecstasy, heroin, methamphetamine, heroin, or Ecstasy, you need the expert criminal defense attorneys at Sevens Legal, APC, on your side. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.

Sevens Legal, APC
Criminal Defense Attorneys
3555 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 297-2800

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