Marijuana Possession

California Laws 2016 – Transporting drugs (CA Health and Safety Code 11360, 11379.5, 11391)

The California state legislature enacted 807 new laws during the 2015 legislative session.

The definition of “transporting” controlled substances within the meaning of CA Health & Safety Code sections 11360, 11379.5 and 11391 was changed to mean “to transport for sale”.

The changes to these code sections, which relate to the transportation of marijuana, pcp and psychedelic mushrooms, mean that a person who is transporting those substances for personal use, rather than for sale, can be charged only with possession of, rather than the more serious charge of transporting, the proscribed substances.

Santa Clara Law Enforcement Bust Marijuana Grow Operation (CA Health and Safety Code 11358)

Although there have been big changes nationwide in the past few years when it comes to the question of marijuana, it is important to note that there are still a large number of law enforcement agents who make it their business to eliminate the use, distribution, and growth of the illegal plant. One of these groups is the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department’s “Marijuana Eradication Team.” It’s a strange name, but accurate. Deputies from this particular team were dispatched to a suspected grow site near Alum Rock Park. A raid was carried out in the early morning hours this past Friday and ended in only 1 arrest, though the media has called it a ‘big pot bust.’ 2 other individuals managed to escape the team. There is no word yet on how many plants the ‘large’ grow operation actually consisted of.

Most folks are at least a bit familiar with California’s basic laws concerning the possession, sale, distribution, and growth of marijuana. Simply possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use could end in a $100 fine, court costs, and no criminal record. However, teams such as the one mentioned above still go after what they consider to be problematic large marijuana growing operations.

Under California’s Health and Safety Code 11358, it is illegal to cultivate marijuana in the state, unless authorized to do so for medicinal purposes. Not only is it unlawful to grow anything but medical marijuana, it is always a felony. This particular section of the law covers growing, planting, processing, drying, or harvesting the plant. If convicted, the individual arrested in Friday’s raid could be looking at severe penalties. For a first conviction, it is possible to spend up to 3 years in county jail. Nonetheless, it is possible to argue for a lesser sentence or no jail time, if you enter into a drug treatment program and are not a violent offender.

3 Men Arrested on Charges of Felony Marijuana Cultivation and Sales (CA Health and Safety Code 11358)

Law enforcement officials in Hayward are calling the 44,000 square foot grow house they discovered a ‘marijuana factory.’  This is, perhaps, due to the fact that they managed to confiscate approximately 13,000 plants, valued at about $15 million, at the location on Diablo Avenue.  Three different men, ranging in age from 21 to 28, were arrested on charges of felony marijuana cultivation and felony marijuana sales.

Although California has somewhat reasonable laws when it comes to the personal use and possession of marijuana (it is merely an infraction to possess 2.5 grams or less and the penalty is a mere $100 fine), state penalties are, conversely, far harsher when it comes to illegal cultivation.  Barring laws that allow for the cultivation of a small number of marijuana plants allowable for medical marijuana patients, their caregivers, and grow cooperatives, the cultivation of any amount of marijuana is considered a felony in the state of California.

The California Health and Safety Code 11358  (‘marijuana cultivation’) deems it illegal to participate in any part of the process of growing a marijuana plant, including preparing it for use.  Furthermore, you need not actually plant, harvest, cultivate, or process marijuana to be considered guilty of this crime.  For example, if you own the property on which marijuana is being cultivated, and are aware of its presence, you could be considered in violation of this law.  If you are found guilty of a first offense related to marijuana cultivation, you are likely to spend anywhere from 16 months to 3 years in a county facility.

 

Louisiana Changes Medical Marijuana Law

In a surprising turn a Louisiana legislative panel, medical marijuana dispensaries may eventually be available for patients in the state.  Unlike California, where patients have had access to medical marijuana in various forms since the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and Medical Marijuana Program Act of 2003, and Colorado, where marijuana for medical and recreational purposes was fully legalized last year, Louisiana’s potential new medical marijuana law would be comparatively restrictive.

There is already a strange gap in the law.  Although the Louisiana legislature passed a law in 1991 that allows medical marijuana, patients have had no way to gain access to it legally.  In other words, doctors can prescribe it, patients can use it, but they cannot buy it legally.  Now, lawmakers are trying to change that, and it seems that they might finally be successful (Louisiana Senate Bill 143).

In California, the first state in the union to legally allow for medical marijuana usage (Prop 215), patients are able to use, possess, and grow marijuana for medical usage.  It requires that patients are recommended by their physician for such usage, but not that they acquire an official ID card, although this oftentimes can assist patients if they fall under the scrutiny of law enforcement agents (CA Health and Safety Code 11357-11362.9).

California law dictates that there are no limits specified for medical marijuana possession; home cultivation is also allowed and no limits are specified here either.  While the state of California allows for medical marijuana to be prescribed for a number of physiological conditions, Louisiana law will only take glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, and chemotherapy-related conditions to be covered under the possible new law.

Santa Rosa Man Arrested for Marijuana Possession, Sale and Manufacturing of Hash Oil (CA Penal Code 11357-11362)

In a particularly strange case, a man from Santa Rosa has recently been arrested on several different and seemingly unconnected charges, that of possession of marijuana, sale of marijuana, operating a hash lab (CA Penal Code 11357-11362), and hit-and-run with injuries.  Evidently, police searched the 32-year-old’s home just after he’d purportedly collided into a random home and into an 11-year-old boy’s bedroom.  After fleeing the scene, investigators were able to identify the vehicle, a red Dodge pickup, and find its owner.  This led them to the Santa Rosa man’s home, where they discovered a secret hash lab.  He was peacefully arrested at the Novato home of a relative.

Oftentimes, the suspicion of one crime will lead to the discovery of another, as has definitely been the case for the man above.  First, as the hit-and-run caused injuries to the young boy (he was tossed by the force of the impact of the crash), it will likely be treated as a felony charge.  Normally, hit-and-runs are considered ‘wobblers’ in California law (meaning that prosecutors decide, based on the facts of a particular case, whether or not they will treat a particular instance as a misdemeanor or as a felony).  Penalties upon conviction under CA Vehicle Code 20001 when injury is involved may include up to 4 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Of course, the charges relating to the possession of marijuana, its sale, and allegedly operating a hash lab will be treated separately.  Depending upon how much marijuana was found in the man’s home, he could face (with intent to distribute) up to 3 years in state prison.  Simply for having sold marijuana, an individual could spend to 4 additional years in prison.  Chemically manufacturing hash may add an further maximum of 7 years in prison, with fines as high as $50,000.

 

California Law Governing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (CA Health and Safety Code 11357)

Recently, you may have read about how so-termed ‘pot clubs’ (medical marijuana dispensaries and/or grow collectives) in the Bay area have been building a positive name for themselves by contributing financially to gun buybacks.  Unlike the state of Colorado, which has passed laws making the use of marijuana legal for both medical and recreational use, only medical marijuana is legal in California, and only under certain conditions.  Since pot clubs are making an attempt to be seen in a better light, it might be timely to remind readers of the California laws governing medical marijuana and its distribution to patients.

Marijuana that is used for medical purposes has been legal in California since 1996 when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215 & CA Health & Safety Code 11362.5), which effectively made medical marijuana legal.  Most Californians are aware that, in order to grow marijuana for personal, medical use, you must first get a prescription from a legitimate doctor, then pay a fee to receive your medical marijuana identification card.  Once in possession of this card, you are allowed to grow as much marijuana as you reasonably need, at your doctor’s recommendation, to treat whatever medical issue is plaguing you.

However, growing one’s own marijuana can be time-consuming and complex, it’s evidently not like growing tomatoes in your spring garden!  So, many people have developed marijuana grow cooperatives.  These cooperatives (or ‘collectives’) allow persons to grow their medical marijuana plants together in the same area.  You do not even have to participate fully in the cultivation of your own plants; as long as the cooperative does not grow more marijuana than is allowed by prescription to its members (Attorney General’s guidelines or Senate Bill 40).  In general, collectives are only defined by state law and must be officially incorporated.  Of course, though the federal government makes the cultivation of any amount of marijuana plants a felony, and though they have made promises not to prosecute individuals who have medical marijuana permissions within their own state, there is always the possibility of harassment or arrest for marijuana possession (CA Health and Safety Code 11357).

 

Wrong Person Killed in Association with Marijuana Grow Operation (CA Health and Safety Code 11358)

The 21-year-old victim’s girlfriend (name withheld for privacy) will tell you that he wanted to be a homicide detective.  In fact, the two of them had been known to watch crime dramas like “Law and Order” while he dreamed of being in the same position as the investigating officers one day.  In a tragic twist of fate, he became the victim of a homicide, right outside his home in San Leandro.

When he was found, shot to death, his vehicle was still running and he was still behind the wheel.  Law enforcement officials have now deemed the murder a case of mistaken identity.  While he lived in a small, detached house from the main house in front of which he was found dead, there was a marijuana grow operation in the larger structure.  In fact, police believed he was involved with the grow operation at first, but now claim that he was innocent of any connection to it.  Whoever killed him intended to kill someone else.

It is likely he didn’t even know that it existed.  Still, his death resulted in the confiscation of upward of 250 marijuana plants and various other indications that the house was a grow house (like bright lights and irrigation systems).  No arrests have been made thus far in connection with the case, but police are worried that whoever was after the grow house operators will return now that they know they killed the wrong guy.

Leaving this heartbreaking incident aside for the moment, it is important to note exactly what the penalties are, according to California law, for illegally cultivating marijuana.  CA Health and Safety Code 11358 covers the marijuana cultivation laws in the state, all of which have harsh penalties unless associated with legal, medical marijuana cultivation considerations.  For example, you could end up incarcerated for any number of marijuana-related behaviors, planting marijuana, harvesting marijuana, and drying or processing marijuana just to name a few.  To be clear, marijuana cultivation is always considered a felony offense in California.  Even if you are being jailed for the first time in relation to a violation of the above law, you could spend up to 3 years in county jail.  Of course, there are exceptions to the rule.  For example, you could have only grown enough marijuana for personal use or are a nonviolent offender (first or second offense); in these circumstances, a good attorney might be able to negotiate a lesser charge, like that of drug treatment.

That person or persons responsible for the death of John Doe will have more to answer for than simple marijuana cultivation charges, however, if they are caught.  Police report that the marijuana plants they removed from the San Leandro grow house were worth about $60,000 on the street.

 

Gilroy man Arrested for Illegal Cultivation and Distribution of Marijuana (CA Health and Safety Code 11358 and 11359)

Although it never seemed to be open for business, a furniture store in Gilroy seemed innocuous enough to passers by.  The truth of the matter, say local law enforcement representatives, is that it was a front for a large grow house, containing over 1,000 marijuana plants in the storage area where furniture should have been.  A 39-year-old man (name withheld to protect the privacy of the accused) has been arrested on charges of illegal cultivation of marijuana, distribution, and theft of utilities.  After completing a search of the grounds, police also found approximately 50 pounds of processed marijuana in addition to the plants.

The fact that medical marijuana has been available to consumers for quite some time now in California does not change the fact that other laws concerning this particular drug are still harsh.  It is still illegal to plant, harvest, dry, process, or otherwise cultivate marijuana in the state, unless you have permission from authorities to do so in connection with a medical marijuana license (or if you are the primary caregiver for someone who has permission to use medical marijuana).

The laws concerning this particular crime are so severe that you need not even be aware that marijuana is being cultivated on your property in order to be arrested.  According to the California Health and Safety Code 11358, the illegal cultivation of marijuana is considered a felony.  Even for a first offense, you could end up spending up to 3 years in county jail.  Furthermore, if it is suggested that you were cultivating marijuana for the purposes of selling it (CA Health and Safety Code 11359), you may be looking at an additional 3 years in jail.

 

Colorado Marks First Year Anniversary of Marijuana Legalization (CA Health and Safety Code 11357 – 11362)

While most of the rest of the nation, California included, seems to remain embroiled in the struggle to legalize personal marijuana use, both for medical purposes and for recreation, Colorado hits the 1-year mark for having simply legalized it for adults.  The question on everyone’s proverbial lips is: was this a wise move or not?  According to the data out of Colorado, legalizing marijuana has been a boon for the state both economically and socially.

In Colorado, much like medical marijuana outlets in California, adults 21 years of age or older) are able to enter state-run dispensaries, produce verifiable identification (like a driver’s license), and purchase marijuana legally for any purpose.  What is not often mentioned is that possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use has been legal in Colorado since 2012 (see Amendment 64).  The current industry is highly regulated, producing revenue and jobs, and seems to have caused a decline in the rate of underage consumption.

As it stands now, in the state of California, possession of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana is considered an ‘infraction’ that amounts to a simple $100 fine and no jail time.  Additionally, underage possession of the same could mean 10 days in jail and a $250-$500 fine.  Even charges of marijuana possession of more than 28.5 grams (if the possessor does not intend to sell it) is a misdemeanor, resulting in a $500 maximum fine and a potential 6 months of incarceration. (CA Health and Safety Code 11357 – 11362)  Does this mean that California and other states will soon follow Colorado’s example when it comes to legalization?  Although this is a difficult question to answer, one need only look at the 1-year data issuing forth from Colorado to determine that marijuana legalization has been an all-around good idea for the state.

 

Richmond Police Officer Found with Marijuana in Home (CA Health and Safety Code 11357)

It’s not uncommon for a law enforcement official to confiscate quantities of marijuana in their course of his or her duties.  What is unusual is to find some of that same type of contraband in an officer’s own home.  A 43-year-old member of the Richmond police force claims that he was using a 4-pound bag of marijuana to train his police dog, but prosecutors were suspicious of this story.  Recently, however, they decided not to pursue the case.

There were several different factors in the above instance that contributed to the final decision made by prosecutors.  While federal law dictates that any amount of marijuana is illegal, California state law (CA Health and Safety Code 11357) prohibits the possession of the drug even for personal use.  However, if an individual is found in possession of marijuana less than 28.5 grams of the substance, this is not considered criminal.  Instead, a $100 fine is imposed and the individual in question will spend no time in jail.

Still, the Richmond officer had much more than 28.5 grams; he had 4 pounds, which amounts to 1,814.37 grams, that’s over 63 times the allowed limit.  And would have normally been considered a felony.  There was no marijuana missing from the bag and it has been assumed that it was used for dog training, but others point to the fact that taking seized drugs home, for any purpose is not only inadvisable and against policy, but also illegal.  Some also claim that this is a blatant case of special treatment for law enforcement officials.