3 Things Nobody Told You About California's New Marijuana Laws

Marijuana is now legal for adults over 21 in nine states, including California.  Image courtesy of  Pixabay

Marijuana is now legal for adults over 21 in nine states, including California.
Image courtesy of Pixabay

On January 1, 2018, recreational use of marijuana became legal for adults over 21 years of age in California under Prop 64. But just because cannabis is now legal in California does not mean that you can't be penalized under state law for personal possession, use, or driving under the influence.

With these new policy changes, and federal law still classifying marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, it's been difficult to keep up. That's why we're sharing a few things you may not be aware of about California's new marijuana laws and how they may affect you.

1. You cannot consume, smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in public places

This one seems like it goes without saying. Whether you’re a medical or recreational user, it remains illegal to consume cannabis in public. 

According to Politifact:

"To stay within the law, you’ll need to consume cannabis on private property. 'You cannot consume, smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in public places,' according to the state Department of Public Health’s website.

Smoking marijuana where tobacco is prohibited is also illegal, unless there is a local ordinance expressly allowing its usage. This includes school campuses, restaurants, bars, public parks and hospitals – essentially any public building."

2. There are different regulations surrounding marijuana and "concentrated cannabis"

While you can now legally carry marijuana, there are different regulations surrounding legal amounts of marijuana and "concentrated cannabis." Marijuana refers to dried marijuana or "marijuana flowers" that can be smoked. Concentrated cannabis refers to any cannabis products that have a high concentration of cannabinoids (THC), including "hash oil" for vaping and edibles.

According to the LA Times article, "Legal weed in California: A consumer's guide":

"If you are 21 or older, you can buy and possess up to 28.5 grams (a little over an ounce) of marijuana, up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to six live plants."

Simple possession of excessive amounts of marijuana is a California misdemeanor for adult defendants. The potential penalties are:

  • Six (6) months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500).

Being aware of the differences between marijuana and concentrated cannabis, and how much you are allowed to carry, can help save you from criminal charges. It's important to note, you can travel with cannabis in your vehicle, but it must be in a sealed container or in the trunk.

3. As of now, breath testing technology does not have the ability to detect marijuana

Just like with alcohol, you are free to drive once you are no longer impaired by marijuana. However, as of now, there is no breath testing technology to detect levels of marijuana in one's system. Police may request a urine or blood test, which are usually reserved for detecting THC weeks after use, but are not ideal for detecting marijuana within hours of use.

This means that California police rely heavily on field sobriety tests to detect marijuana impairment, including the “horizontal gaze nystagmus test”, the “walk and turn test”, and the “one-leg stand.”

But, according the the LA Times, California police have begun to use saliva drug swab tests to detect marijuana levels at DUI checkpoints:

"When it comes to detecting marijuana, the [saliva drug swab] machine only looks for the active THC compound that is responsible for the high. That component, delta-9 THC, can stay in a person's system for a few hours or longer, depending on how the cannabis was ingested and how the person's body processes the drug. The machine does not look for the inactive THC compounds, which can stay in a person's system for weeks, police said.

In other words, if someone legally smoked marijuana two days ago, there would be nothing to worry about if tested on the machine.

Evidence from the [saliva drug swab machine] will be admissible in court, although the machine is not expected to have a notable effect on how drugged driving cases are prosecuted, attorneys said."

Our legal counsel can help

Have you or a loved one been charged with a marijuana-related offense in Fresno, California or the surrounding area? The Law Office of Annette T. Smurr can help. With over 30 years experience, Annette will fight for you and present legal defenses that can help you fight the charges. See her Recent Wins, which include cases where drug offenders received no jail time, probation, and/or recovery programs.

Call today for a free 30-minute consultation.
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