With the recent changes in California’s marijuana laws, it can be easy for someone to become confused by what’s legal and what’s not. When Proposition 64—also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act—went into effect on January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana became legal in California. However, there are still stipulations that could result in severe penalties if a person is found to be in possession of an amount over the legal limit, which would then be considered possession of marijuana for sale.

Is Marijuana Legal in California?

The short answer is yes, marijuana is legal in California, but it’s only legal for medical or personal recreational use. The following guidelines explain the legal limits for marijuana in California:

Recreational Marijuana (adults age 21 years and older)

  • Up to one ounce on a person’s body at one time
  • Up to six plants being cultivated (grown) on a person’s private property, as long as the plants aren’t able to be seen from public view

Medical Marijuana (adults age 18 or older)

  • Up to eight ounces on a person’s body at one time, provided has a medical recommendation from a doctor
  • Up to 6 mature plants or 12 immature marijuana plants

Businesses are excluded from these stipulations, as long as they’re legally licensed to sell marijuana in the state of California.

What are the Consequences of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute in California?

Generally speaking, intent to sell is a misdemeanor in California. This charge comes with up to six months’ time in county jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Intent to sell can be considered a felony, however, for some defendants, including those who:

  • Have serious violent or sexual crimes on their records
  • Are repeat marijuana offenders
  • Have sold—or are found to have the intention of selling to—minors

Intent to sell marijuana convictions are not eligible for drug treatment plans in lieu of jail time. On occasion, an attorney may be able to get the charges for possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana reduced to simple possession charges; possession charges are eligible for drug diversion programs.

How Does a Prosecutor Prove Intent to Sell?

In California, a prosecutor may charge a defendant with “possession for sale” if the state believes the person accused was intending to deal drugs on the black market—that is to say, the defendant is not a legally licensed business who is licensed to vend marijuana.

In order for a prosecutor to charge a person with intent to sell, he or she must be able to prove:

  • The defendant was in possession of an amount of marijuana over the legal personal-use amount
  • The defendant was aware of the marijuana’s presence and its nature as a controlled substance
  • The defendant intended to sell the drug without the required licenses necessary to do so

The last statement is usually the most difficult to prove. “Intent”, by nature, can often be contingent upon circumstantial evidence; however, if there is enough evidence—circumstantial or direct—the prosecutor may win the conviction.

The following are examples of evidence a prosecutor may use to prove intent in a “possession for sale” marijuana case in California:

Direct Evidence: The defendant said, “I’ll sell you some weed.”

Circumstantial Evidence:

  • The marijuana is packaged into small baggies
  • The amount seized is larger than a few ounces
  • Paraphernalia such as scales and baggies are found with the weed
  • The pot is found amongst weapons and a lot of cash
  • The police witness a transaction where cash (or something of value) is exchanged for marijuana

Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute is a serious charge in California, and the repercussions can be devastating if you’re not armed with an attorney when you walk into the courtroom. If you’re facing these charges, it’s best to obtain counsel of an experienced Northern California criminal defense attorney who knows how to navigate the law. Contact Mark Sollitt any time of day to begin your legal consultation today!