What Punishment Do I Face for Possession of Marijuana?

The answer to the above question depends upon the amount of marijuana, the age of the client, the form of the marijuana and where the client was cited or arrested.

When the client is found with no more than an ounce, 28.5 grams, of marijuana (not cannabis, or concentrated marijuana) and the citation or arrest does not occur on school grounds, the client faces an infraction with a maximum $100 fine.  This is provided for at Health and Safety Code § 11357 (b).

The exception to this infraction only provision is if the defendant is over 18 and the arrest or citation is issued on school grounds while the school is in session or there are school related activities (i.e. a football game on a Friday night).  When the client is over eighteen and such an arrest takes place on school grounds, the offense is a misdemeanor, despite there being no more than one ounce found.  The punishment maximums then faced are a ten day county jail sentence and fines up to $500, plus penalties and assessments that can boost the total payment to well over $2,000.

When the client is under eighteen and found on school grounds, but with less than one ounce of marijuana, the offense is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $250 for a first offense.  When the offense is a second offense, the maximum fine is $500 and there is a maximum ten-day commitment to a juvenile detention facility.

When the amount of marijuana is more than one ounce, but not so much as to become considered a quantity considered possession for sales, the maximum punishment is six months in county jail and a fine of $500, plus penalties, and assessments.  The amount considered as qualifying as being possessed for sales varies tremendously from court to court and county to county.

Quite often, the individual charged with possession of marijuana, but not sales, is eligible for Prop 36 or PC 1000 diversion.  Such programs allow the client to avoid county jail and undergo drug treatment.  If the client successfully completes the program (very few courts offer both Prop 36 and PC 1000), the case is dismissed.

It is important to appreciate that if the client is under 21, but over 13, and convicted of possession of marijuana or cannabis, that person’s driver’s license is suspended for a year or the person’s ability to obtain a driver’s license is suspended for a year.  However, if the client has no prior drug-related convictions in the prior twelve months, the judge has the discretion to prevent the suspension.

If one is found with any amount of cannabis, or concentrated marijuana, the person faces possible felony charges.  Possession of cannabis is known as a “wobbler,” meaning that depending upon the circumstances of the case, and the client’s criminal history, the charge can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony.

When one is convicted of a misdemeanor for possession of cannabis, the client faces a maximum fine of $500, plus penalties and assessments, and up to one year in county jail (assuming one is not eligible for Prop 36 or PC 1000).  Such a sentence is eligible for “half-time,” meaning one day credit for every one day served.  This means the client will most likely actually serve much less than six months in county jail, assuming good behavior and assuming he or she makes himself or herself available for work within the jail.

When one is convicted of a felony charge of possession of cannabis, the punishment is quite severe, assuming one is not eligible for Prop 36 or PC 1000.  The minimum prison time is sixteen months and the maximum time is three years.  While this confinement is considered “prison time,” it is eligible under the Realignment Act (AB 109, amending Penal Code § 4019) for satisfaction in county jail.

For more information about marijuana issues, click on the following articles:
  1. Juvenile Found in Possession of Less than an Ounce of Marijuana – What Are the Defenses and What Is the Possible Punishment?
  2. Judge May Prohibit Medical Marijuana Use as Term of Probation
  3. Warrantless Search of FedEx Package Containing Marijuana Held Improper and Case Dismissed
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