Recreational marijuana is legal in California and 17 other states. The specifics of each state’s statutes where the substance is legalized or decriminalized vary, but they generally allow adult use and possession of certain amounts of pot.
As more and more states begin to allow the consumption of marijuana, you might wonder whether you can take the pot you bought in California to another state where it’s legal.
In short, the answer is no.
First, California and other state laws may restrict the transportation of marijuana within the state itself. Second, the federal government still classifies pot as a Schedule I drug. Trafficking or possessing the substance can lead to federal prosecution.
California’s Marijuana Laws
In 2016, California residents voted to legalize marijuana. Two years later, adults could purchase it from a licensed dispensary for recreational use.
California’s law concerning recreational marijuana says that persons 21 years of age or older may buy, possess, use, or give away:
- Up to 1 ounce of marijuana or
- Up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis.
Additionally, they can grow up to 6 marijuana plants for recreational use.
Still, some conduct involving marijuana is prohibited under specific statutes. For instance, California Vehicle Code § 23222 (b)(1) provides that it is illegal for individuals to drive a car with an open container of pot in their possession.
Let’s apply CVC § 23222 to the question posed at the beginning of this blog. If you plan to take pot with you into another state, and the substance is in an open container near you, you could be charged with a crime even before you get out of California. The offense is an infraction carrying a fine of up to $100.
The state’s laws don’t just prohibit traveling with an open container. They also forbid transporting marijuana with the intent to sell it. California Health and Safety Code § 11360 says that if someone does not have the required license to distribute marijuana and transport it, even a short distance, to sell it, they could be charged with a misdemeanor. Thus, if you want to cross state lines with marijuana for sales, you might be facing up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.
Marijuana Laws in Other States
As of this writing, 18 states, including California, have passed laws either legalizing or decriminalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
These other states include:
- New Jersey,
- New Mexico,
- New York,
- Nevada, and
The specifics of the marijuana laws differ from one state to the next. Discussing each is beyond the scope of this blog. Still, even where pot is legalized (or at least decriminalized), regulations are likely in place controlling how the substance is transported or dispensed. Even if you are able to cross state lines without being charged in California, you may still face criminal prosecution in the other state.
The Federal Government’s Marijuana Law
The U.S. Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. The federal government does not recognize it as having an accepted medical use and considers it to have a high potential for abuse.
Taking marijuana from one state to another affects interstate commerce. Therefore, such conduct becomes a federal matter. In 2018, the Justice Department issued a memo on marijuana enforcement stating that U.S. Attorneys are expected to follow established procedures when considering prosecution of an alleged offense involving pot.
Transporting pot anywhere else in the U.S., even if it’s legal wherever you take it, can result in a federal drug trafficking or possession charge.
The penalties for trafficking in marijuana depend on the amount of the substance and can include:
- 1,000 kilograms or more:
- 10 years to life imprisonment and/or
- Up to $10,000,000 in fines
- 100 kilograms or more:
- 5 to 40 years of imprisonment and/or
- Up to $5,000,000 in fines
- Less than 50 kilograms:
- Up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or
- Up to $250,000 in fines
Simple possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor, penalized by up to 1 year of imprisonment and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Schedule a Consultation Today
With the various state and federal marijuana laws, it can be difficult to know what’s legal and what’s not. Our Los Angeles attorneys can aggressively fight your charge.
Reach out to Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP by calling (800) 462-7160 or submitting an online contact form.