It's no secret that California marijuana laws are not as strict as many other states. Beginning in January 2018, the State of California has allowed recreational marijuana use under a number of conditions. However, the change in the law certainly hasn't resulted in a free-for-all. California law is clear that marijuana may only be bought or used by those aged 21 and up. The law is clear that it is illegal to:
- Hire or employ a minor to transport, sell, prepare for sale, or even give away marijuana;
- Sell marijuana to a minor; or
- Induce marijuana use by a minor.
Regardless of the circumstances, any violation of these laws regarding minors and marijuana are charged as felonies.
The Elements of Selling Marijuana to a Minor
Pursuant to California Health and Safety Code 11361(a), there are three specific ways in which you can be charged with the sale of marijuana to a minor:
- A person 18 years of age or over who hires, employs, or uses a minor in unlawfully transporting, carrying, selling, giving away, preparing for sale, or peddling any cannabis;
- A person who unlawfully sells, or offers to sell, any cannabis to a minor, or who furnishes, administers, or gives, or offers to furnish, administer, or give any cannabis to a minor under 14 years of age; or
- A person who induces a minor to use cannabis in violation of the law.
Lawful Sale of Marijuana in California
Of course, not every sale or use of marijuana in California violates state law. California carves out two specific exceptions for allowing the sale or use of marijuana: recreational use and medical use. Marijuana can only be purchased from a state-licensed dispensary during daytime hours. The state also allows for private establishments to allow marijuana, and dispensaries are even allowed to deliver. It's worth noting that some municipalities have stricter marijuana laws than the state does.
Under California law, adults aged 21 years old or older can buy or possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. The law allows possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, which is a little more than 1 ounce. Recreational use laws also allow adults to possess 8 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to six live plants. Recreational marijuana cannot be used in public or any private building where smoking is already prohibited.
Adults aged 18 through 20 may only purchase and use marijuana through California's medical marijuana program. The purchase of medical marijuana requires a physician's prescription. Those with a medical marijuana card may possess 8 ounces of marijuana and up to 12 live plants without violating state law.
Penalties for Selling Marijuana to a Minor
The penalties related to the sale of marijuana to a minor are tougher than those for simply possessing the drug. In fact, violation of California Health and Safety Code 11361 is charged as a felony. What's more, diversionary programs designed to keep those with a first offense pot charge from having a conviction are not available to those who violate this statute.
Penalties are the toughest when the minor in question is under the age of 14. Any violation of Safety Code 11361 with a victim that age faces imprisonment for either three, five, or seven years. For victims aged 14 to 17, the incarceration sentence is between three and five years.
It doesn't make any difference under the law what form of marijuana is used. The sale of cannabis oil, marijuana, or marijuana edibles carries the same penalties under the statute. There is also the potential for additional charges like child endangerment. In all, the sale of marijuana to a minor carries serious legal jeopardy.
Potential Legal Defenses
Like most crimes, there are defenses that apply exclusively to marijuana offenses as well as defenses that are relevant to nearly every criminal case. An experienced defense attorney will review your case to determine if charges are warranted or if law enforcement violated constitutional protections during its investigation.
Illegal Traffic Stops
Police officers cannot stop any car for any reason. They must have reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation was committed by the driver before a stop can be made. If law enforcement stops someone illegally, any evidence they subsequently collect after the illegal stop cannot be used in court due to the doctrine known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” If evidence of the sale of marijuana to a minor is discovered during the search of a car after an illegal search, any evidence seized cannot be used in court. This even includes confessions.
Illegal Search and Seizure
The same constitutional protections that keep a vehicle from being searched also protect a home. If a home is searched in violation of the owner's constitutional rights, any evidence found cannot be used against the homeowner at trial.
The Sale of Marijuana was not “Unlawful”
The statutes relating to the sale of marijuana to a minor specifically uses the word “unlawfully.” That is because some people under the age of 21 are authorized to purchase medical marijuana. The employees of the licensed dispensaries are authorized to make these sales and cannot be charged under state law.
The Seller Lacked Knowledge of Marijuana
To be convicted, a person must know they are selling marijuana. In some limited circumstances, it is possible a court will find that a defendant either didn't know the substance sold was marijuana or was unaware that there was marijuana within another object that was sold. For instance, the sale of an old trunk is not a crime if the seller is unaware that hidden within the trunk was marijuana.
Finding the Right Drug Defense Attorney in Los Angeles, California
William S. Kroger is an experienced criminal defense attorney. Highly skilled and exceptionally qualified, William S. Kroger has frequently defended the rights of clients charged with drug crimes, including the sale of marijuana to a minor. To discuss your case, contact William S. Kroger Attorney at Law today to set up a free consultation.