California Recent Change to Marijuana Law

Under the ballot measure designated as Proposition 64 that was passed by 57% of the voters in the November 8, 2016 election that became effective November 9th:

1) those convicted of a felony as a result of possession, transportation &/or cultivation of marijuana can have it reduced to a misdemeanor;

2) the County Public Defender in San Diego has offered to file the Petition for free even if the crime occurred years ago, and even if the defendant was previously represented by private counsel;

3) if the San Diego District Attorney decides there is a basis to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor, the defendant may not even have to appear in Court;

4) the current process in San Diego allows the Superior Court to re-sentence a defendant from a felony to a misdemeanor, or dismiss the charges [it would seem beneficial to have private counsel if one hopes to obtain a full dismissal of a prior felony conviction];

5) the law also now permits anyone over age 21 to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, or grow at any one time up to six marijuana plants at their residence.

6) the maximum penalty is now up to six months in the County Jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for those who grow, transport or sell marijuana, which are now misdemeanors.

7) there are certain exceptions causing the case to be charged as a felony, such as:

  • the defendant has prior convictions for the sale of drugs;
  • the defendant is charged with transporting marijuana into the United States &/or across state borders. For example, one cannot obtain marijuana in a state in which recreational use is legal and bring it into California;
  • the defendant has a prior conviction of certain felonies that are deemed “strikes;”
  • the defendant is a Registered Sex Offender [RSO].

8) in addition, there are miscellaneous restrictions in connection with marijuana, such as:

  • there are Federal laws that apply to the use, possession, sale, transportation and/or cultivation of marijuana;
  • driving while impaired by the use [under the influence] of marijuana is a crime in California;
  • smoking marijuana (a joint) (pot) in public is still illegal;
  • a store, shop, or retail establishment that sells recreational marijuana must check ID’s to be certain they are not selling marijuana to a minor; and such a business cannot be within 600 feet of a school, daycare or youth center;
  • unless the law is amended, a medical marijuana dispensary and/or an entity that cultivates marijuana cannot legally sell to an adult recreational user [includes social, personal or nutritional uses] until January, 2018;
  • advertising that is aimed to minors is prohibited;
  • a city or municipality has the power to issue an ordinance to ban the sale of marijuana; and if they permit such a commercial entity to do business, they have the power to regulate those entities under zoning laws.
  • an employer can lawfully require all prospective employees to pass a drug test as a condition of employment for certain positions as long as no individual or group is unlawfully selected, such as discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, religion, sexual preference, etc.
  • an employer can lawfully refuse to hire an employee who has tested positive for marijuana, even though it was legally prescribed for a medicinal purpose

9) nonetheless, there are still advantages to have a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, including but not limited to allowing an individual to maintain &/or obtain current and future: employment, security clearance, insurance, rent or lease property, and, in specified instances to possess a firearm, etc.

On the other hand, it is still likely if one has a professional or occupational license in California, or seeks to obtain such a license,  the state licensing Board, Bureau, or Department will require one to report a crime, whether a felony or misdemeanor; and, they will investigate and likely file an Accusation even if a misdemeanor is expunged. At Spital and Associates, we aggressively seek to present a comprehensive and cogent treatise with a compelling defense and offense and utilize forensic experts (adding the technical science) to marginalize any such investigation or Accusation.

Any discussion of marijuana of necessity has to include what opponents consider to be the dangers of such use. The short term effects include but are not limited to causing changes in a person’s mood, but  it can also impair body movement; as well as difficulty in attention and/or memory (learning) and/or problem solving (thinking). It has also been reported that marijuana raises one’s heart rate, which can increase the risk of a heart attack, particularly with older individuals and/or those with congenital or later developed or contracted heart problems.

The long term effects can adversely impact the previously mentioned mental abilities, and possibly cause permanent loss of certain brain functions. In some individuals,  the long term use of marijuana can cause temporary symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations, as well as anxiety and depression that has been linked to mental illness. Not only can there be a loss of physical and/or mental health, but it has also been described as a “gateway drug” because it can lead to the use of other drugs and narcotics (some of which are highly addictive and deadly).  In addition, the smoke can harm a person’s lungs and, therefore, cause lung cancer. The risk to the development of a child during and after pregnancy is still unknown. When one seeks to stop using marijuana, there may be withdrawal symptoms.

You are encouraged to consult with a physician in terms of  medical and psychological issues; and, it is recommended that you obtain the advice of an experienced lawyer in regards to each and all of the above items to determine whether and to what extent any apply to you, a loved one, and/or a friend or associate. If you desire a Free Attorney Consultation, call 619.583.0350 and ask for Sam Spital, Managing Lawyer or send an email

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