When you're made out to be the enemy
we protect you
from costly felonies.
When you're made out to be the enemy
we protect you
from costly felonies.

San Diego Marijuana Charges Attorneys

Helping Clients Understand California’s Marijuana Laws

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and recreational use was legalized 20 years later, in 2016. This has led to many people believing that they can no longer face marijuana charges, but this is a common misconception. If you use marijuana, whether for medicinal purposes or recreationally, it’s important to understand the marijuana laws and how they apply to your situation. Keep reading to learn more about how you can be charged and what to do if you are.

If you’re facing criminal charges related to marijuana possession or use, contact Kersey Law today to speak to a member of our team and schedule your free consultation with a marijuana lawyer. We can help you understand why you were changed and inform you of your defense options.

Is Marijuana Legal in California?

Recreational and medical marijuana is legal in the state of California, but there are still specific laws and guidelines to be aware of to ensure you are in compliance and can avoid any criminal charges. It’s also important to be aware that there may be stricter rules locally, such as at the county or city level. If you’re not sure what the local marijuana laws are for your area, you can speak with an attorney to find out.

According to California law, recreational marijuana use is only allowed for those over the age of 21. You can possess up to 1 ounce of flower or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal recreational use. If you are a medical marijuana patient, you can possess up to 8 ounces of dried cannabis, 12 immature plants, or 6 mature plants.

However, there are other limits. For example, you cannot operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. It’s also illegal to sell marijuana for personal or medicinal use unless you are approved to do so by the state. Manufacturing or possessing marijuana paraphernalia with the intent to sell it is also a misdemeanor offense.

Private property owners, such as landlords or hotels, can restrict marijuana use on their property, and it’s also illegal to smoke marijuana if you are within 1,000 feet of a daycare or school when children are present. Because cannabis is not legal in all states and is still against federal law, you are not able to transport marijuana across state lines or take it onto any federal land, such as national parks.

What Do I Need to Get a Medical Marijuana Patient Card?

Because California has legalized recreational marijuana, you no longer need a medical marijuana card unless you are between the ages of 18-21 or wish to have higher limits for drug possession and cultivation. To get a card, medical marijuana patients need to have cannabis recommended by a licensed physician. There are specific medical conditions that are eligible for medical marijuana use. These include:

  •  AIDS
  •  Seizures, such as those induced by epilepsy
  •  Anorexia nervosa
  •  Ongoing muscle spasms, such as those caused by multiple sclerosis
  •  Arthritis
  •  Cancer
  •  Migraine
  •  Persistent and severe nausea, such as can happen with chemotherapy treatments
  •  Wasting syndrome
  •  Chronic pain
  •  Glaucoma

A doctor may also recommend medical marijuana use to help control chronic medical symptoms that either substantially affect your quality of life or cause you physical or mental harm.

To get a medical marijuana ID card, you will need to fill out the application and include a copy of the doctor’s recommendation, your proof of residency, and your driver’s license or state ID. Applications are submitted in person at the local health department, and you may have to schedule an appointment in advance. At the appointment, you will need to pay the fee, which can be reduced if you are on Medi-Cal, and have your picture taken for your ID card.

What Is California’s Compassionate Use Act?

The Compassionate Use Act was part of Proposition 215 and was approved by voters in the fall of 1996. It was officially added into law on November 5 and legalized the use of medicinal marijuana in the state of California under state code 11362.5. The intent of the Compassionate Use Act was to allow extremely ill people to be able to use marijuana as a means to control their symptoms and pain under a doctor’s recommendation. It meant that those who were using marijuana for documented and authorized medical purposes couldn’t be criminally prosecuted for using an otherwise illegal drug.

The Compassionate Care Act specifically noted that the legalization of medicinal marijuana did not trump other laws in regard to others’ safety. This means that someone who was using medicinal marijuana would still not be able to drive a vehicle or otherwise act in any manner while using marijuana that might hurt someone else. The law also allowed those using medicinal marijuana to cultivate the plant for personal use if a doctor recommended it.

What Are the Different Types of Marijuana Charges?

Marijuana charges can vary based on the circumstances and the amount of cannabis involved, but they are generally misdemeanor charges. Here are some examples of common marijuana offenses.


Simple marijuana possession is not a crime in California as long as you are over the age of 21 and are within the possession limits. For personal use, if you have more than 28.5 grams of cannabis in your possession, it is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. If you are under the age of 18, the charge is classified as an infraction and you will be sentenced to 8 hours of mandatory drug counseling and additional community service.

If you have more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis in your possession, you could face felony possession. A felony conviction carries a potential sentence of more than 1 year in jail, and you could face higher fines.

Possession With Intent to Distribute

Possession with intent to distribute is a possible charge if you are found in possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana. Intent to sell or distribute is normally a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. However, there could be some circumstances that could increase these charges, such as having multiple subsequent offenses or selling marijuana to minors. Contact a San Diego intent to sell marijuana attorney today to discuss your options.

Cultivation and Manufacture

If you are found cultivating more than 6 marijuana plants and are not a medical marijuana user, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. The same penalties apply if you are charged with illegally producing concentrated cannabis products. However, depending on the method of manufacture, you could face additional charges for chemical extraction of a controlled substance, which is a felony. This charge carries a potential sentence of up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.


Because it’s illegal to drive under the influence of a substance that could impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, it is possible to be charged with a marijuana DUI. This can include driving under the influence of medical marijuana. For a first offense, the potential penalties are up to 6 months in jail, having your license suspended for a minimum of 4 months, a fine of up to $1,000, and 3 months of mandatory DUI school. You could also be placed on probation for 3-5 years.

The potential penalties of a marijuana DUI increase with subsequent offenses, and you can even be charged with a felony if you have four or more DUI offenses. The penalties for a felony DUI are up to 16 months in prison, fines of up to $18,000, a suspended license for 4 years, and up to 30 months of mandatory DUI school. You could also face up to 5 years of probation. If convicted, you will have a felony on your record, which can impact your future, including potential job opportunities.

What Are Some Defense Options?

Many people across the state of California are charged with marijuana offenses because they didn’t understand the limits and other laws that apply to recreational and medicinal use. A San Diego marijuana lawyer can help you determine which defense strategy is the best option for your case, but some of the more common defenses include arguing that:

  •  Officers didn’t have reasonable grounds for a traffic stop. If officers didn’t have a valid reason to pull you over or reasonable suspicion that a crime had occurred, the evidence found via the traffic stop may be inadmissible.
  •  Officers executed an illegal search and seizure. Officers must either have your permission or probable cause to execute a search and seizure on your person or your vehicle.
  •  The substance wasn’t marijuana. If you are using a CBD product or other cannabis derivative that is not controlled, the charge may not apply.
  •  The marijuana was not in your possession. This may be used if the marijuana found was not yours or was in the possession of another person in your vehicle or property.
  •  You had no intent to sell or distribute. If you only intended to use the marijuana for personal use, you may be able to argue that an intent to sell charge isn’t warranted. If you were found in possession of paraphernalia for bagging or weighing cannabis, this can be a more challenging defense.
  •  You possess a medical marijuana card. Having a medical marijuana card can help you avoid charges if you were above the possession or cultivation limit for personal use.

While you may think that marijuana charges aren’t a big deal, any criminal charge should be taken seriously. Call our office in San Diego at to find out what you need to do and what your options are. We can help you schedule a free consultation with a marijuana lawyer where you can discuss your case in-depth and understand how our team would handle your case.