What’s the Legal Age to Possess Marijuana in California?

California law allows individuals to possess marijuana for recreational or medicinal use. Adult users must be 21 years of age or older to have the substance. They can only possess certain amounts or grow a specific number of plants. If a person under 21 has pot (and they do not have authorization from a physician) or an individual has more than the legally allowed amounts, they could face criminal charges.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Los Angeles team fights drug crime charges. Speak with us about your case by calling (800) 462-7160 or submitting an online contact form today.

Recreational and Medicinal Use of Marijuana

In California, certain individuals are allowed to use marijuana for medicinal or recreational use. Discussing the distinction between the two uses is important because they affect the legal age at which a person can possess marijuana.

Recreational marijuana is for personal use and does not require that the user have a medical condition. Thus, recreational users do not need a prescription from a doctor.

In contrast, medicinal users must have authorization from a physician to be able to purchase cannabis.

To be approved for the medicinal use of marijuana, an individual must have an eligible medical condition, such as:

  • Arthritis,
  • Cancer,
  • Chronic pain, or
  • Glaucoma.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Possess Cannabis?

In California, recreational users must be 21 years of age or older to possess and use marijuana legally. Medicinal users may be 18 years of age or older with a physician's recommendation.

All cannabis use must take place on private property and is prohibited in public spaces. Generally, the rule of thumb is that if it is illegal to smoke tobacco in a certain area, it’s also illegal to smoke pot. Further, marijuana users may not possess the substances within 1,000 feet of any school or childcare facility when children are present.

When traveling with marijuana, it is important to remember that it is not legal in all states or under federal law. Therefore, it cannot be taken onto federal land nor across state lines.

Where Can You Legally Purchase Marijuana?

Recreational users can legally purchase cannabis from licensed retailers or delivery services. Medicinal users must buy the substance from licensed medical dispensaries. Adult-use dispensaries cannot sell to those with medical marijuana needs.

People 21 years of age or older can also buy or receive cannabis products for recreational use and give away up to the legally allowable amount without getting compensation from another individual.

How Much Pot Can You Possess in CA?

The amount of marijuana a person can possess in California varies depending on whether an individual is a recreational or medicinal user. According to state laws, those who use it recreationally can carry up to 28.5 grams (roughly 1 ounce) of cannabis and not more than 8 grams of cannabis concentrate. They can also grow up to 6 plants.

Medical users have different limits. In some cases, they can possess higher quantities or grow more plants per their physician's recommendations.

Are Criminal Charges Still Possible for Marijuana Possession?

Although California’s stance on marijuana possession has shifted significantly over the years, it is still possible to be charged with a criminal offense for having the substance. The potential penalties depend on the age and conduct of the alleged offender.

If a person under 18 possesses no more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of cannabis concentrate, they could be charged with an infraction. For a first offense, a judge could sentence the individual to 4 hours of drug education or counseling and up to 10 hours of community service. If the person has more than the legally allowed amounts of marijuana, the penalties for a first offense increase to 8 hours of drug education or counseling and up to 40 hours of community service.

For adults between 18 and 20 years of age, possessing less than the legally allowed amounts can result in an infraction charge and a fine of not more than $100. If a person 18 years of age or older has more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of cannabis concentrate, they could be charged with a misdemeanor. The potential punishments include a fine of up to $500 and/or jail for no more than 6 months.

Charges can also arise for the illegal cultivation of marijuana plants. A person under 18 years of age who grows any plants can be sentenced to 8 hours of drug education or counseling and up to 60 hours of community service. If an individual is between 18 and 20 and they grow less than 6 plants, they could be fined not more than $100. Anyone 18 or older who has more than 6 plants could face a jail term of up to 6 months and/or a fine of not more than $500.

Contact Our Firm for Help Fighting Charges

Although the law has changed concerning marijuana possession for people 21 years of age and older, it is still possible to be accused of a drug crime for having the substance. If you are facing criminal charges, reach out to a defense attorney who can assess your case and determine avenues that can be explored to challenge the allegations against you.

To schedule a consultation with one of our Los Angeles lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, please contact us at (800) 462-7160 today.