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Health & Safety Code 11357 HS – Possession of Marijuana in California

Updated August 18, 2020

On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to one (1) ounce of dried marijuana or eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish).

The new law does not change regulations regarding medical marijuana, which has been legal in California since 1996.

HS 11357 regulations surrounding possession of marijuana

Marijuana legalization in California does not mean that you can never be penalized under state law for possessing marijuana or concentrated cannabis. Health and Safety Code 11357 HS, California’s marijuana possession law, does still make it a crime to:

  • Possess more than 28.5 grams (approximately one ounce) of marijuana or more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis;
  • Possess marijuana or concentrated cannabis if you are under 21, except in accordance with California’s medical marijuana laws; or
  • Possess marijuana on the grounds of a K-12 school while the school is in session.

The following table summarizes the current laws and penalties regarding marijuana possession in California:

HS 11357 marijuana possession offense Type of offense Penalty
Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis by people under 21 Infraction Drug counseling and community service (defendants under 18); fine of up to $100 (defendants 18 and over)
Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (defendants 18 and over) Misdemeanor Up to 6 months in county jail; up to $500 fine
Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (defendants under 18) Infraction Drug counseling and community service
Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis on the grounds of a K-12 school (defendants 18 and over) Misdemeanor Up to $250 fine for first offense
Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis on the grounds of a K-12 school (defendants under 18) Infraction Drug counseling and community service

If you are charged with a marijuana possession crime under California Health and Safety Code 11357 HS, there are legal defenses that can help you fight the charges. Some of the most common are:

  • You didn’t possess any marijuana.
  • The weed wasn’t yours.
  • You didn’t know the pot was there.
  • The marijuana was discovered during an illegal search.
Our California marijuana attorneys can help

Did the police charge you with a possession of marijuana offense? You came to the right place for help and for answers.

In this article, our California marijuana attorneys 1 provided detailed answers to the most frequently asked questions about Health and Safety Code 11357 HS California’s possession of marijuana law:

If, after reading this article, you would like more information about California marijuana laws, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of dried marijuana.

1. Penalties for Marijuana Possession Crimes after Prop 64 (Health and Safety Code 11357 HS)

The 2016 voter initiative Proposition 64 made it legal for adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal, recreational use. 2

However, Proposition 64 does not mean that no one will face criminal charges or fines for simple marijuana possession. The following are still prohibited by HS 11357:

Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana

Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana (slightly over one ounce) or more than eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish) is prohibited under California’s marijuana legalization law. 3

Simple possession of excessive amounts of marijuana is a California misdemeanor for adult defendants. The potential penalties are:

  • Six (6) months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500). 4

However, defendants under the age of eighteen (18) who possess more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, or more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis, will only be charged with a California infraction and required to attend drug counseling and/or perform community service. 5

Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis by a minor

It is also illegal under HS 11357 for people under the age of twenty-one (21) to possess any amount of marijuana or concentrated cannabis other than in accordance with California’s medical marijuana laws. 6

Under Proposition 64, the penalties for people under 21 who possess marijuana or hashish are:

  • A fine of up to one hundred dollars ($100), for people 18 and over;
  • For first offenders who are under 18, four (4) hours of drug education or counseling and up to ten (10) hours of community service; and
  • For second or subsequent offenders who are under 18, six (6) hours of drug education or counseling and up to twenty (20) hours of community service. 7

Possession of marijuana on the grounds of a school

The last form of marijuana possession that remains prohibited even after the passage of Proposition 64 is possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis is on the grounds of or inside a K-12 school while the school is open during school hours or for after-school programs.

Pot possession at a school is a misdemeanor for adults. The penalty for a first offense is a fine of up to two hundred fifty dollars ($250). For minors under 18, marijuana possession on school grounds is an infraction punishable by community service and drug treatment. 8

In addition, it’s important to remember that Prop 64 did not mean the end of all prosecutions for marijuana-related offenses in California. Possession and use of marijuana are now legal, and so is the sale of marijuana–but only by businesses licensed by state and local governments. Any participation in a “black market” for unregulated marijuana could lead to charges for:

Additionally, possession of marijuana is still a crime under federal law. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently rescinded the Obama-era’s official “hands off” policy regarding federal prosecution of those who comply with state marijuana laws. Under the new policy, federal prosecutors have to discretion to go after people under federal marijuana laws as they see fit.

While federal prosecutors in California have not indicated any intention of going after people who possess marijuana within state legal limits, prosecution is still a risk for people who violate other federal laws, including transportation of marijuana across state lines.

Often times, marijuana-related offenses, and for that matter, most California drug crimes, trigger illegal search and seizure issues…

2. How Do I Fight A California Health and Safety 11357 HS Charge?

“Prop 64 does not mean that no one will be charged with marijuana possession crimes in California going forward. In fact, there is a chance that the passage of Proposition 64 will lead to police and district attorneys to work especially hard to prosecute violations of HS 11357. People who possess more than an ounce of pot, and minors who possess any marijuana, will still have to worry about the hassles and consequences of a marijuana possession charge.”

Common legal defenses to charges of illegal marijuana possession in California include:

You didn’t possess the marijuana

If you didn’t possess marijuana, you aren’t guilty of this crime. This might be the case if, for example, the police mistook someone else’s pot for your own. Clearly, this defense works best when you are not in physical control of the drug. But even then, you could still potentially claim

  • the marijuana belonged to a friend whose clothes, bag, etc. you were borrowing, or
  • someone slipped the pot into your pocket, etc. to avoid his/her own criminal liability.

You didn’t know you possessed the marijuana

Similar to the above, even if you did physically possess a bag of marijuana…but were not aware you were doing so…you haven’t violated the law. Possession of marijuana is not enough by itself to sustain a conviction. If the prosecutor can’t additionally prove that you knew you possessed the drug, then you are entitled to an acquittal.

Referring back to an earlier example, if a friend leaves his pot in your car without your knowledge, you are not guilty of this offense.

The marijuana was discovered during an illegal search and seizure

Often times, marijuana-related offenses…and for that matter, most California drug crimes…trigger illegal search and seizure issues. For example, police routinely violate California’s search and seizure laws when they seize drugs by

  • executing a search without a valid California search warrant,
  • searching a location that is beyond the scope of a valid warrant, and/or
  • initiating an illegal stop.

When any of these issues arise, your California marijuana attorney will likely file a Penal Code 1538.5 PC motion to suppress evidence which, if successful, could result in a dismissal…or at the very least…a significant reduction of your charge(s).

Call us for help…

Call us for help

If you or loved one is charged with Health & Safety Code 11357 HS possession of marijuana and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada’s possession of marijuana laws. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas. 10

Legal References:
  1. Our California marijuana attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier. We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
  2. Health and Safety Code 11357 HS California’s law on possession of marijuana for personal use [as amended by Proposition 64].
  3. Same.
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  8. Same.
  9. Oakland marijuana crimes lawyer Reve Bautista spent over 20 years as a prosecutor with the Contra Costa District Attorney and the San Francisco District Attorney. As a result, she is well-known at every courthouse in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like other drug crimes defense attorneys with Shouse Law Group, she has mastered the ins and outs of California marijuana policy in the wake of recreational marijuana legalization.
  10. Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to Nevada’s marijuana laws. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

California Health and Safety Code Blog Posts:

Updated August 18, 2020 On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to one (1) ounce of dried marijuana or eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish). The law stems from voter passage, in November 2016, of Proposition 64, the Adult Use .

Updated August 18, 2020 On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to one (1) ounce of dried marijuana or eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish). The law stems from voter passage, in November 2016, of Proposition 64, the Adult Use .

Updated August 18, 2020 On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to one (1) ounce of dried marijuana or eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish). The law stems from voter passage, in November 2016, of Proposition 64, the Adult Use .

Updated August 18, 2020 On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to one (1) ounce of dried marijuana or eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish). The law stems from voter passage, in November 2016, of Proposition 64, the Adult Use .

Health & Safety Code 11357 HS makes a crime in California to possess more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, or for a person under 21 to have marijuana.

Marijuana Possession is a Civil Infraction in Virginia – Can I Smoke Now?

On July 1, 2020, the possession of marijuana becomes a civil infraction punishable by a maximum fine of $25. Some marijuana activists are celebrating this as a major victory and suggesting it’s effectively legalization. Some are asking does this means it is okay to smoke regularly or if I am charged can I just plead guilty and pay the fine? The answer to both questions is NO.

In the 2020 Regular Session, the General Assembly decriminalized all forms of marijuana possession set forth in § 18.2-250.1 of the Code of Virginia. The maximum penalty is a $25 fine plus court costs (at least $80 or more). Second offense marijuana possession is no longer a Class 1 Misdemeanor and your license can no longer be suspended for a marijuana possession conviction. Many people ask – so what’s the big deal?

First, marijuana possession is still a civil infraction and the sight or odor of possible marijuana can still probably be used as a predicate to search your person or vehicle although it will take some time for the courts to sort that out.

Second, while access to Virginia’s Central Criminal Records Exchange is limited and employers or colleges are prohibited from asking about marijuana convictions, a marijuana infraction is filed at the courthouse and with the charging local law enforcement office. Data brokers gather that data and sell it to background check services used by employers, insurance companies, and landlords so you can and will likely get asked about discrepancies between your answers and background check reports after the reports come back if there is a disconnect between your answer and the background check.

Third, these infractions still bear the hallmarks of a criminal infraction such as the need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and a fine so they are likely to be treated as misdemeanor convictions by the Federal Government for immigration purposes like deportations and will likely qualify as grounds to have Trusted Traveler Status denied or revoked – e.g. TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry. If you have reason to fear deportation or enjoy skipping the security lines, think twice.

Fourth, as of today, Virginia Law does not allow expungements when someone either is convicted or stipulates to guilt. Virginia’s statutory deferred disposition program typically requires such a stipulation so if you enter a disposition under § 18.2-251 of the Code of Virginia for a charge to be continued for dismissal upon completion of a program, you will still have a charge in the courthouse file for the rest of your life and until Virginia Law changes, it will be ineligible for expungement.

The bottom line – If you are convicted or enter a dismissal program for a marijuana infraction after July 1, you can still get searched, deported, lose a job, be denied entry into college, refused an apartment, fined, and a charge will stay on your record forever or until Virginia Law is changed.

The real difference will come when and if the Commonwealth of Virginia moves to legalization. The logistics of achieving that are much more complicated and will take some time for the legislature to work out, but it is under discussion. In the meantime, the practical effects of marijuana possession will not change much because of this law and if you are charged – hire a lawyer! Give us a call today at 703-251-5400. The law firm of Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC are here to help.

Surovell Isaacs & Levy, PLC discusses a new law that makes marijuana possession a civil infraction in Virginia. Contact our office today to learn more.