Marijuana Laws Attorney

The state of California has decriminalized marijuana to some degree. Typically, decriminalization means no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption. The conduct is treated like a minor traffic violation.

• Miscellaneous (Paraphernalia, DMV & license suspensions)

Any conviction of a minor under 21 causes driver's license suspension for 1 year.

• Possessing less than 28.5g of Marijuana

Possession of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana is not an arrestable offense. As long as the offender can provide sufficient identification and promises to appear in court, the officer will not arrest the offender. Upon conviction of the misdemeanor charge the offender is subject to a fine of $100. Possession of greater than 28.5 grams is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

HOWEVER, If you possess Marijuana in a vehicle then consequences are different.

• Possession of Marijuana or Open Container While Driving

Under Vehicle Code Section 23222, any person who is in possession of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway is guilty of a misdemeanor.

• Investigations by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

The department may conduct an investigation to determine whether the privilege of any person to operate a motor vehicle should be suspended or revoked or whether terms or conditions of probation should be imposed upon receiving information or upon a showing by its records that the person was convicted under VC 23222.

• Paraphernalia

Under Health & Safety Code 11364: It is unlawful to be in possession of an opium pipe or any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance.

Under Health & Safety Code 11364.5: It is unlawful to maintain or operate any place of business in which drug paraphernalia is kept, displayed or offered in any manner, sold, furnished, transferred or given away unless such drug paraphernalia is completely and wholly kept, displayed or offered within a separate room or enclosure to which persons under the age of 18 years not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian are excluded.

• California's Local Guidelines

• These limits are not legally binding, other than for purposes of immunity from arrest and prosecution; they are floor amounts intended to provide a safe harbor of immunity for any patient with a bona fide recommendation to be presumed in compliance with California Health and Safety Code HS 11362.5 (Prop 215), as long as there is no indicia of sales or commercial production. The affirmative defense remains for patients in possession of larger amounts. Collectives and patients charged with intent to sell should take note of special provisions in HS 11362.7. Larger amounts may be authorized by local cities or counties.

SB 420 Statewide Default Patient Guidelines: To be as safe as possible from arrest and prosecution, patients and caregivers should stay below the medical marijuana immunity law passed by the California legislature, HS 11362.77, which sets a minimum statewide guideline of 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND up to 8 ounces of processed cannabis flowers. Physician's note exempts larger amounts. Cities and counties empowered to set guidelines that are greater than those amounts, but not less. This is explained in an open letter from the authors of the bill. Also see the Supreme Court's Wright decision at chrisconrad.com/expert.witness/wright.html.

To learn more about the history of implementation and malfeasance towards California's medical marijuana laws, visit

The California Attorney General has issued his own set of guidelines. These are not binding law, but give an idea of how prosecutors will consider the circumstances of a medical marijuana patient or garden.

Federal law does not recognize medical marijuana and the Raich decision affirmed their power to prosecute cases that are legal under state law. Federal law does not "trump" state law, it is a separate jurisdiction.

• Cannabis guidelines adopted by Cities

• City of Arcata

Ordinance: ID card system maintained by Chief of Police. 10 plants + 2 # dried.

• City of Berkeley

Ordinance: up to 10 plants and 2.5 lbs. per patient; collectives up to 50 plants and 12.5 lbs. total at any given time.

Caregiver amounts calculated on the above numbers per patient served.

• City of Oakland

Ordinance: Indoors -- Up to 72 plants with up to 32 square feet of canopy and 3 # dried bud. Caregiver amounts calculated on the above numbers per patient served. Outdoors -- 20 plants at any stage of development and 3 # dried bud.

Effective June 1, 2004: Collective not to exceed three patient members. Only four licensed dispensaries to be allowed by the City. Dispensaries are limited to 8 ounces and 6 mature plus 12 immature plants per patient member at any given time. No on-site consumption allowed.

Original policy from 1998: Outdoors - 30 mature plants (60 is less than 30 are flowering); indoors 144--48 mature plants + 96 immature vegetative and/or 1.5 # or 6 # (if patient grew).

• City of San Diego

Still in development: Current version 9/17/03: Adult marijuana patients with the approval of a San Diego County doctor may keep up to 1 pound of marijuana and grow up to 24 plants. Under the measure, caregivers can keep up to 2 pounds of marijuana and grow up to 48 plants for as many as four patients. The ordinance must come back for a final vote, as a procedural matter, to be enacted.

• City of San Jose

No quantity limits are established. Officers will not cite or arrest physicians, primary caregivers, or patients possessing or using marijuana for legitimate medicinal purposes in accordance with 11362.5 H&S. Standards of reasonableness in deciding enforcement issues are similar to those in needle or drug possession cases where a prescription is claimed or in a gun possession case where a permit is claimed. It should be kept in mind that mere oral approval by the physician is all that is necessary to comply with the law. Standards of probable cause for a vehicle search, person search, arrest, or a search warrant request should take into account known facts regarding the permitted uses of marijuana under Proposition 215.

• City of Santa Cruz

No quantity guidelines; city ordinance regulates cannabis clubs, allows physician's diagnosis for recommendation.

• City of Santa Rosa

Ordinance: Safe Access Guidelines, same as the County of Sonoma. For more information, contact Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana.

• City of Sebastopol

Ordinance: Safe Access Guidelines, same as the County of Sonoma. For more information, contact Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana; letter to DA asks to protect patients with 4.5# and 150 square feet of garden canopy.

On 3/17/09, in a unanimous vote Sebastopol City Council approved the following four changes to the Medical Marijuana Dispensing Ordinance: 1. Extend hours of operation to 9 pm from 8 pm, Sunday through Thursday and 7 pm, Friday and Saturday; 2. Add the use of the California State Medical Marijuana Identification card and Patient ID Center Identification card as proof of patient status; 3. Remove the 30 immature plant limitation from retail sales; 4. Allow 150 sq. ft. for display and sale of medical use devices.

• Guidelines Adopted in Various Counties

• Alameda: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Alpine: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Amador: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Butte Co.: Sheriff and DA jointly stipulate: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants and one pound of processed. (Formerly 6 plants at any stage.) Butte County DA Policy

• Calaveras Co.: Board of Supervisors ordinance: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud. Two pound safe harbor dropped by Supervisors' vote 3/27/06.

• Colusa Co.: No firm policy; case by case review; 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud OR 1.5 # processed. (Formerly 2 plants outdoors or 4 plants indoors)

• Contra Costa:¬†6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud.

• Del Norte Co.: Current status remains unclear, so SAN is advising everyone to follow the state minimum guidelines for maximum safety. 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud. After the local newspaper led a hysteria campaign, it appeared that the County Sups were going to throw out their guidelines (following); but when the "Kelly" ruling struck them down as unconstitutional and then the Supreme Court decided to hear the case, the plan was put into limbo. Originally: County Resolution 2002-029, adopted April 2002 allows up to 100 square feet with no more than 99 plants and up to 1 # dried bud.

• El Dorado: Outdoors: 20 plants March 1 through July 31; 10 plants through October (end of season) and 2 # bed from 9/1 to 2/28; 1 # from 3/1 to 8/31. Indoors: 10 vegetative plants, 1 mother plant, 10 flowering plants, and 1 # bug per patient. Formerly 6 plants and/or 2 pounds processed. Caregivers can take care of household plus three outside patients.

• Fresno: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Glenn: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Humboldt: County Board of Supervisors policy as a PDF file (220k) approved taskforce proposal of three pounds of bud or conversion plus 100 square feet of garden canopy, no limit on plant numbers or lamp wattage. Caregiver amounts calculated per patient served.

• Imperial: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Inyo: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Kern: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• King: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Lake: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Lassen: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Los Angeles: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Madera: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Marin: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud, county ID cards honored by all law enforcement.

• Formerly: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud (lowest in the state and apparent basis for HS11362.77).

• Mariposa: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Mendocino: In 2008, County voters passed Measure 'B' to revert to the statewide minimum guidelines of 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud. It was suspended for several months while the question was on appeal but has again been implemented pending the results of the Kelly case appeal, now before the State Supreme Court.

Previous policy: Sheriff and DA policy based on Voter Proposition G: 25 plants with up to 100 square feet of canopy and 2 # bud. In August, 2004, the Da announced that the county will no longer enforce plant limits, only square footage.

• Merced: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Modoc: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Mono: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Monterey: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Napa:• 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Nevada: 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants any size, or in the alternative, 75 square feet of total canopy area AND up to 2 # bud. Collectives to keep copies of all patient's recommendations available for inspection.

• Orange: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Placer: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Plumas: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Riverside: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Sacramento: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• San Benito: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• San Bernardino: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• San Diego: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• San Francisco: Patient and caregiver ID cards issued bu county Health Department; no patient guidelines. Case by case consideration, generally contingent on police claims of indicia of illegal sales or diversion to non-medical market. Patient guidelines adopted in 2005 set the immunity threshold at 24 plants/patient plus 8 oz, with a 25 sq. ft. canopy, and 99 plants per collective. The personal use guidelines can be found on page 44 ofthe online policy, so click here to download in PDF format.

• San Joaquin: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• San Luis Obispo: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• San Mateo: mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• San Barbara: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Santa Clara: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Santa Cruz: Board of Supervisors PDF file (188k) approved physician's taskforce proposal of three pounds of bud or conversion plus 100 square feet of garden canopy, no limit on plant numbers or lamp wattage.

• Shasta: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Sierra: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud OR quantity approved by physician Formerly: 3 plants outdoors OR 6 plants indoors.

• Siskiyou: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Solano: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

The guidelines were adopted by the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, which includes the DA, Sheriff, and police chiefs from several towns and cities in the county. The guidelines were later ratified by the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol city councils. Protocol to review recommendations through Sonoma Medial Association. Caregiver amounts calculated per patient served. Physician's approval if more is needed. For more information contact Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana.

A. Possession. A qualified patient, or a person holding a valid identification card, or the designated primary caregiver of that qualified patient or person, may possess amounts of marijuana of up to three (3) pounds of dried cannabis or conversion per year.

B. Cultivation. A qualified patient or a person holding a valid identification card or a designated primary caregiver, or primary caregivers or qualified patients whom associate collectively or cooperatively, may also cultivate cannabis in an amount not to exceed more than one-hundred (100) square feet total garden canopy, per qualified patient, as measured by the combined vegetative growth area.

C. Plants. A qualified patient or a person holding a valid identification card or a designated primary caregiver, or primary caregivers or qualified patients whom associate collectively or cooperatively, may cultivate cannabis in an amount not to exceed more than thirty (30) plants per qualified patient. The authorized thirty (30) plants must be grown within the one-hundred (100) square foot total garden canopy per qualified patient.

• Stanislaus: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Sutter: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Tehama: On Sept. 27, 2005, the County Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution No. 98-2005 that establishes Outdoor Cultivation: 12 seedlings or 6 flowering or mature plants, and 8 ounces dried marijuana. Indoor Cultivation: 12 seedlings or 6 flowering or mature plants, and 8 ounces dried marijuana. If the above quantities are not exceeded, the documented medicinal marijuana cultivator and possessor is in compliance with the standards set forth by this (sheriff's) agency and the investigation will not be submitted for prosecution. Original Sheriff's policy: 18 immature plants OR 6 mature plants, and up to 3# processed.

• Trinity: On 6/12/08 the board of Supervisors voted to step backward and revert to the state minimum threshold of 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud. Previously, on 9/4/07 the Trinity County Board of Supervisors had adopted a more reasonable policy allowing for possession of 3 pounds of dried, processed marijuana at any one time and the cultivation of 12 mature plants and/or 24 immature plants. That policy is no longer in effect.

• Tulare: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Tuolumne: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Ventura: Sheriff and DA policy: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud OR 1 # dry bud or conversion. County Supervisors taking matter into review. Formerly 6 plants - 3 mature/3 immature

• Yolo: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud

• Yuba: Informal policy: 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND 8 ounces of bud OR 1.5 # processed marijuana. Formerly 5 plants.

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