In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use. In 2016, when California voters approved Proposition 64, they decided that adults may possess up to an ounce of marijuana or grow as many as six plants at a time. But what about other forms of cannabis, like hashish?
One of the main provisions of Proposition 64 lifts California’s ban on concentrated cannabis. Adults age 21 and over may now legally produce or possess up to four grams of concentrated cannabis without violating California law.
Concentrated cannabis is cannabis resin separated from the marijuana plant. It’s typically referred to as hashish, cannabis oil, hash oil, and probably many other “street” names as well. The resin contains pot’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC.” Concentrated cannabis can be a small solid chunk or brick – the form usually referred to as hashish – a liquid, or a sticky and gooey semi-liquid.
While the possession of up to four grams of concentrated cannabis is now legal for adults in this state, plenty of other laws governing cannabis are aggressively enforced by California police departments and the courts. The “simple” possession for personal recreational use of more than four grams of concentrated cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Patients who are approved for medical marijuana may be exempted from the four-gram limit for recreational users.
WHEN IS POSSESSION WITH THE INTENT TO SELL MARIJUANA A FELONY?
Unless you have been licensed by the state of California to sell marijuana products commercially, the possession of any amount of marijuana with the intent to sell, including concentrated cannabis, will be filed as a misdemeanor charge for most defendants, and a conviction is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
However, for defendants in these three categories, the charge will be filed as a felony:
- anyone with a previous conviction for one of several serious violent felonies or for a sex crime that mandates registration as a sex offender
- anyone with two or more previous misdemeanor convictions for possession of marijuana with the intent to sell
- anyone who allegedly possessed marijuana with the intent to sell to someone under the age of 18
The production of more than four grams of concentrated cannabis is a misdemeanor charge for most defendants, so for most defendants, a conviction is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. However, the production of more than four grams of concentrated cannabis will be charged as a felony for defendants in the same three categories listed above.
Defendants who cross the California state line – in either direction – while possessing more than four grams of concentrated cannabis with the intent to sell will also be charged with a felony punishable upon conviction, in some cases, with up to four years behind bars.
WHAT IS THE “CHEMICAL EXTRACTION” OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE?
What’s considered an even more serious crime in California – a felony punishable upon conviction by up to seven years in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000 – is the production of a controlled substance through a process of “chemical extraction.” If a toxic chemical or flammable substance such as butane is used to manufacture concentrated cannabis, you may be prosecuted and convicted for the chemical extraction of a controlled substance.
Seven years sounds like a harsh sentence, but in general, the legal situation for adult users of recreational hashish is positive in California. Possession of up to four grams for personal use is legal.
Those charged with simple possession for personal use of more than four grams of concentrated cannabis may qualify for drug treatment instead of jail time provided that they are non-violent first- or second-time offenders. When drug treatment and other terms ordered by the court are successfully completed, the simple possession charge can be dismissed.
Probation as an alternative to jail is available for most marijuana-related offenses in California. As a condition of probation for marijuana-related violations, convicted offenders must take part in drug treatment, counseling, or a substance abuse education program. However, if the offender has any previous drug-related felony conviction, he or she probably will not qualify for probation.
IF YOU FACE A DRUG CHARGE, WHERE CAN YOU TURN?
Of course, if you are charged and prosecuted for a crime such as the possession of concentrated cannabis with the intent to sell or the chemical extraction of a controlled substance, your first concern must be finding experienced, knowledgeable legal counsel. In California, more than a few innocent people have been wrongly accused of intending to sell drugs when there was no intent to sell and the drugs were entirely for personal consumption.
In Southern California, it’s imperative to consult an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney after an arrest on any drug charge. When a suspect is charged in southern California with the possession of concentrated cannabis with the intent to sell, an Orange County criminal defense attorney might advance one of these defenses:
- the suspect did not actually possess the concentrated cannabis
- the suspect had no intention of selling the concentrated cannabis
- the suspect was a victim of police misconduct – entrapment or an illegal search
- the evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt is simply inadequate
In drug cases, an examination of the way police officers gathered the evidence often provides the best defense strategy. The testimony of an unreliable informant – or even a police officer – may have to be challenged. In drug cases, the police usually compile evidence against a suspect through search and seizure, but the U.S. Constitution protects everyone in this nation from illegal and unreasonable searches and seizures.
If you are accused of committing any drug crime in Southern California, an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney can explain your legal situation along with your rights and options, review the details of the charge, protect your rights, and advocate aggressively for justice on your behalf. In some instances, a California drug charge can be reduced or dismissed altogether.
If a drug case goes to trial, a complete acquittal is always a defense attorney’s paramount goal. However, in cases where the state’s evidence is conclusive, and a conviction is certain, a defense attorney will seek an acceptable plea bargain, reduced sentencing, or alternative sentencing. If substance abuse is a concern, a good defense lawyer can help a client obtain the appropriate treatment.