Marijuana Crime Defense in Los Angeles

If you have been arrested or charged in Los Angeles with any marijuana or any illegal drug crime, you need to speak to experienced Los Angeles marijuana crime defense attorney immediately. Drug charges are aggressively prosecuted in Los Angeles and the outcome on even a misdemeanor conviction can result in a year in county jail. A felony conviction comes with stricter penalties and potentially state prison. The criminal defense team of Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners provides aggressive criminal defense for their clients bringing over 70 years of legal experience to the table.

Call us for a no-charge, confidential consultation and find out how we can help you and fight your charges.

California Laws About Marijuana Crimes

Marijuana is defined in California Health and Safety Code section 11018 as all the parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; and includes its seeds, resins (extracted from any part of the plant), compounds and derivatives. Marijuana is treated separately from other drug offenses. Marijuana offenses are frequently punished more leniently than other drug crimes.

Possession of Concentrated Cannabis is treated more harshly than possession of a small amount of marijuana. Concentrated Cannabis is defined as the resin separated from marijuana, whether crude or purified. Concentrated Cannabis is generally known as hash or hashish and is stronger than marijuana and as a result subject to stiffer penalties.

Possession of Marijuana for Personal Use

California Health & Safety Code section 11357 makes possession of marijuana (over an ounce) for personal use a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in county jail and a fine. Drug diversion is available for first-time offenders. Successful completion of the drug diversion program results in a dismissal of the criminal case.

If you have an ounce (28.5 grams) or less, it is an infraction punishable by a fine only. It will not go on your criminal record. If you have a physician's permission to use marijuana for medical purposes, you are legally allowed to have up to eight ounces of dried marijuana in your possession.

Possession of any amount of concentrated cannabis is a "wobbler" meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, punishable by up to a year in county jail and/or a fine (misdemeanor), or by up to three years in state prison (felony).

Possession of Marijuana for Sale

Possession of Marijuana is a felony if you intend to sell it (California Health & Safety Code section 11359). The prosecution doesn't have to prove you actually sold the marijuana, just that you intended to sell it.

Intent can be proven by circumstantial evidence: for example, that the quantity of marijuana possessed exceeds the normal amount generally possessed by users, the way the Marijuana is packaged (small bundles), scales, a high volume of pedestrian and vehicle traffic around your home, fortified windows, or a past sale to an informant or undercover officer.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

According to California Health and Safety Code Section 11364 it is unlawful (misdemeanor) to possess an opium pipe or any device, contrivance, instrument or object that can be used to unlawfully inject or consume a drug (controlled substance) or narcotic except marijuana.

Sale, Transportation or Distribution of Marijuana

California's Health & Safety Code Section 11360 makes it a felony to transport or import into California or sell, furnish, administer or give away any marijuana. Transporting/importing marijuana is a felony, unless you were transporting or giving away less than an ounce (28.5 grams), which is a misdemeanor.

Using Minors to Traffic in Marijuana

According to Health & Safety Code 11361(a) it is a felony for any adult to hire, employ, or use a minor to transport, carry, sell, give away, prepare for sale, or peddle any marijuana and it is also a felony to furnish, administer, or give any marijuana to a minor under 14 years of age or who induces a minor to use marijuana in violation of the law.

This is punishable by three to seven years in state prison. Under Health and Safety Code 11361(b) it is a felony for any adult to give, furnish, administer any marijuana to a minor (age 14 to 17) punishable in state prison by three to five years.

Unauthorized Cultivating or Harvesting Marijuana

In California, under Health & Safety Code Section 11358 it is a felony to plant, cultivate or harvest any amount of marijuana. Patients or the patient's caregiver who are prescribed marijuana for medicinal purposes on the written or oral recommendation or approval by a physician for medical reasons are exempt from Health and Safety Code's 11358 prohibition of cultivation and harvesting. People who cultivate for personal use may be eligible for drug diversion as long as there is no intent to sell.

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

California Vehicle Code section 23152 makes it illegal and a misdemeanor to drive under the influence of marijuana (or alcohol or other drugs). You can be charged with DUI if you are caught driving under the influence of marijuana in California. In fact, driving while high can land you with the same charges a person caught drinking and driving might face. While some may argue, marijuana possesses the ability to impair a driver’s ability to react as he/she might when sober. For this reason, a person under the influence of marijuana is considered a potential danger to himself/herself as well as other driver’s on the road.

On What Grounds Can Law Enforcement Arrest Me?

Unlike alcohol-related crimes, there is no “per se” amount of marijuana to establish a person’s inability to drive. However, there are a few different methods a law enforcement officer may use in order to determine whether you are driving under the influence of marijuana. Below is a list of these possible techniques.

Your Eyes:

The law enforcement officer that pulled you over might examine your eyes, checking for any unordinary redness, puffiness, or dilated pupils.

Your Car’s Scent:

The officer may be able to smell the scent of marijuana on your breath, clothes, or from inside your vehicle.

You Performance of Field Sobriety Tests:

The police officer may have you perform a number of sobriety of tests to determine whether your reactions are slow or unusual.

Presence of marijuana:

The law enforcement officer may glance in your vehicle, while speaking to you, to see if there is any marijuana in sight.

The presence of paraphernalia:

The officer may look in your vehicle, while speaking with you, to see if there is any noticeable paraphernalia.

Chemical Tests:

In some cases, a law enforcement officer may require you to take a chemical test. When driving in California, you give your implied consent to receive tests for drugs and alcohol when arrested. (Note: You must be arrested before an officer can force you take a chemical test.)

Medical Marijuana

In 1996, Proposition 215 removed the criminal penalties for use, possession and cultivation of marijuana for patients whose doctors recommended it. Referred to as the "Compassionate Use Act," it is codified in California Health and Safety Code section 11362.5. The conditions for which medical marijuana has been approved include, but are not limited to AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine headaches and nausea.

The statute sets a state possession threshold of 6 mature or 12 immature marijuana plants and up to 8 ounces of processed cannabis flowers per patient. It should be noted that Medical marijuana provides only a partial defense to charges of possessing marijuana. This defense does not apply to federal law. A person can be prosecuted under federal law, which does not recognize the California medical necessity/defense of marijuana.

Penalties for Marijuana Charges








An ounce or less




More than an ounce


6 months


Ounce or less on school grounds by a minor while school is in session; 1st offense




Second offense by minor on school grounds.


10 days


Less than an ounce by an adult on school grounds


10 days


Inducing a minor to use


3-7 years

Possession of concentrated cannabis


1 year in county jail or 3 years in state prison



Any amount


16-36 months


Any amount


2-4 years

To a minor


3-7 years

Gift of less than an ounce



Gift to a minor under 14


3-7 years

Gift to a minor age 14 - 17


3-5 years


More than an ounce


2-4 years

Using a minor


3-7 years

* Exception for medical marijuana

Driving suspension for minors: According to California Vehicle Code Section 13202.5, any person under age 21 who is convicted of for any marijuana offense faces a 12-month driver's license suspension. The offense does not have to be driving-related.

Defenses to Marijuana Crimes

An experienced criminal defense attorney will evaluate the strength of the evidence against you, find the weaknesses in the prosecutor's case and use the weaknesses to obtain the most favorable outcome possible. Evidence suppression is a very powerful defense tool in marijuana cases. Every person has a constitutional right to be free from illegal searches.

Most evidence in a marijuana case comes into the hands of law enforcement through search and seizure. If the search and/or seizure was illegal, the evidence cannot be used in court and must be suppressed in a formal motion known as a "1538.5." Often when evidence involving illegal searches and seizures is suppressed, there is not enough evidence left to get a conviction, so the case is dismissed.

Alternative Sentencing

In California, drug treatment is considered a more appropriate sentence than jail for non-violent individuals with marijuana use problems. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for one of these alternatives, including DEJ and Prop 36. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about the options available to you.

Working with Our Marijuana Crime Defense Lawyers

Marijuana cases can be complex, so it's very important to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney. Only an experienced lawyer will be up-to-date on the frequent changes in the California Marijuana laws, will know how to uncover the facts that will help your defense and will know how to determine the strength of the prosecution's case against you.

Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners have successfully defended many clients in marijuana cases, often helping them avoid conviction entirely. There are many alternatives to jail for individuals convicted of marijuana crimes who may not be appropriate candidates for Prop 36, Drug Court or DEJ.

We have assisted many clients with alternatives to incarceration, such as Electronic Monitoring and House Arrest. Do not settle for a guilty plea; being charged and convicted of a crime, even a minor marijuana offense can lead to a criminal record that can ruin your life. Having to go alone to criminal court in Los Angeles on a drug charge can be a frightening experience. Knowing you have experienced defense attorneys in your corner can make all the difference.

Contact us to discuss your case and learn what we can do for you.

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