Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for personal recreational use is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $100 with no jail time or probation.
In 1996 the voters of California passed Proposition 215 providing a legal allowance for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In 2003 the legislature passed legislation providing a clearly defined mechanism for legal, medical use of marijuana. The Medical Marijuana Program, within the California Department of Public Health, is administered through a patient's county of residence. Upon obtaining a recommendation from their physician for use of medicinal marijuana, patients and their primary caregivers may apply for and be issued, a Medical Marijuana Identification Card.
The Medical Marijuana Program in California provides that "Qualified patients and primary caregivers who possess a state-issued identification card may possess 8 oz. of dried marijuana, and may maintain no more than 6 mature or 12 immature plants per qualified patient." However subsequent regulation and court decisions have provided that local jurisdictions may allow larger amounts for patients or primary care givers in need of it in order to manage medical conditions.
Possession for Sale
California legislation provides that medical marijuana be dispensed by "cooperatives" or "collectives" comprised of registered medical marijuana users and/or their primary care givers. San Diego County has been particularly hostile to attempts to establish legitimate distribution of medical marijuana, refusing to issue the state mandated identity cards. The result has been raids by federal and local law enforcement officials on marijuana "dispensaries" that fall into a gray area with regard to the legal dispensation of marijuana. People who are embroiled in these sorts of legal situations need an experienced marijuana defense attorney.
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Some of these dispensaries have been fronts for retail sales of pot. Others have been attempts at providing services to recognized medical marijuana users, but without a county ID program there can be no real recognition. The federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 still makes marijuana possession a felony — although California appellate courts have ruled that there is no conflict between the medical use contemplated by Proposition 215 and the recreational use of drugs for which the 1970 Act was created.
Sale of Marijuana
Nevertheless arrest for possession of significant amounts of marijuana can be a significant legal problem, because there is little in the way of defense available under the medical use statutes. Federal law provides that sale of amounts less than 50 kilograms is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Under state law the sale of any amount of marijuana remains a felony, punishable by two to four years in jail. Sale to a minor over fourteen years of age is also a felony, punishable by three to five years in jail. And providing marijuana in any fashion — as a sale, a gift, or an inducement — to a child under the age of fourteen is punishable by three to seven years in prison.
Someone who is a properly registered medical marijuana user can still be prosecuted for the sale of marijuana outside the scope of medical usage. This situation has been a conflict in many of the prosecutions of medical marijuana "dispensaries" which have been challenged by prosecutors as illegal points of sale.
Marijuana Arrests in San Diego
Simple possession of a small amount of marijuana is now effectively precluded from serious legal difficulty. But given San Diego County's active hostility to the medical use of marijuana, arrests for possession for sale and for distribution can be severe legal problems. For any marijuana arrest beyond possession of less than an ounce, you should retain an experienced marijuana defense attorney in San Diego who understands the complexity of federal, state and local jurisdictional conflicts. If you have been arrested on a marijuana charge, call our office today for a free consultation.
Contact the San Diego law office of criminal defense lawyer Anna R. Yum for counsel and representation, and arrange a consultation to discuss your options.