Marijuana Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles
At the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg, we handle cases involving marijuana and other criminal charges. Contact us for a marijuana defense lawyer who understands how to approach this unique legal situation. If you are reading this, chances are you have been charged with one or more of the following offenses:
- Possession of over an ounce of marijuana
- Possession of marijuana for sale
- Transportation of marijuana for sale
- Cultivation of over six plants of marijuana
- Possession of over 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (hash)
- Possession of marijuana while driving
- Possession of marijuana paraphernalia
Why an Experienced Marijuana Defense Lawyer Can Help
Marijuana laws are different than other drug laws. There are different rules that control the punishments in marijuana cases.
We know more than the police and prosecutors about marijuana. If you are charged with anything more than simple possession of marijuana, the police and prosecutors will use all their resources to convict you of a felony. Defending a marijuana case takes more than just knowledge of the law. Criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg knows marijuana usage patterns, marijuana culture, and the politics behind the marijuana laws—this knowledge base is essential in crafting a successful defense for your marijuana charge.
POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA NOW LEGAL UNDER CALIFORNIA STATE LAW.
If you are 21 years or older, it is now legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana in California. Here’s how the new law works:
- Anyone 21 years old or over may possess, process, transport, purchase, obtain or give away up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis or up the equivalent of 8 oz of marijuana in edibles, to someone else 21 years or older.
- However, there can be NO compensation. So you can give it away to a friend, but you can’t get paid or receive anything of value in exchange.
- Additionally, you can possess cultivate, plant, harvest, dry or process not more than SIX living marijuana plants and possess the marijuana from the plants.
- If you’re 21 years or older, you can also smoke or ingest marijuana products. Where you can smoke marijuana? That depends on local ordinances and state regulations that are still being worked out. Of course, you can do it in the privacy of your own home. That’s for certain.
- If you are 21 years or older and possess more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, you can be charged with a misdemeanor.
- If you are under the age of 18 and possessing of any amount of marijuana you will be charged with an infraction (like a traffic ticket) and be required to attend a four hour drug class and perform up to ten hours of community service. If you’re caught more than once, you need to do more drug classes and more community service.
- You can’t smoke or vape marijuana in a moving vehicle. If you want to transport marijuana in a car, it needs to be in a separate sealed container and preferably in the trunk.
POSSESSION FOR SALE OF MARIJUANA IS STILL ILLEGAL UNDER CALIFORNIA STATE LAW
While possessing or giving away marijuana to someone 21 years or older is legal, possession for SALE of marijuana is illegal until the state of California regulates the distribution of marijuana through licensed retailers. That is not due to happen until January of 2018. Until then, it is a criminal offense to sell marijuana and it can lead to jail time.
Under Health and Safety Code Section 11359, If you are over 18 and charged with possession for sale of marijuana, it is punishable as a misdemeanor with maximum imprisonment in the county jail for a period of no more than 180 days and a fine of not more than $500 (or both). However, possession for sale of marijuana can be charged with a felony if:
- The accused has previously been convicted of certain violent t felonies (a ” super strike” under three strikes law)
- Is required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290
- If the person has two or more prior convictions for possession for sale of marijuana
- If the offense involved the attempted sale of marijuana to someone under 18 years old.
- If the offense involved hiring or employing someone 20 years old or younger in any marijuana business.
MARIJUANA IS STILL 100% ILLEGAL UNDER FEDERAL LAW
Selling and Distributing of Marijuana (Federal Law)
Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance. A Schedule I substance is one that has a high potential for abuse, and it has no currently accepted medical uses in the United States. Furthermore, with a Schedule I controlled substance, there is no accepted safe course for using the substance under medical supervision. Although there is much scientific evidence that marijuana can have substantial medical benefits, federal law treats marijuana as if was the same as heroin, another Schedule I drug.
Selling Marijuana (Federal Law)
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will use a variety of evidence to determine whether they feel someone is selling marijuana:
- The quantity of marijuana or the number of marijuana plants seized.
- Evidence of sale of marijuana includes baggies, measuring equipment (like scales), large amounts of cash, multiple cell phones, and sales records.
Penalties for the Sale of Marijuana and Paraphernalia (Federal Law):
- The maximum penalty for the sale of less than 50 kilograms (102 lbs) of marijuana is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
- The sale of between 100 kilograms (220 lbs) and 1000 kilograms (2,200 lbs) of marijuana carries a maximum prison sentence of 40 years and a maximum fine of $500,000
These penalties can double if a sale to a minor takes place within 1,000 feet of a school.
In addition, the maximum penalty for the sale of marijuana-related paraphernalia such as rolling paper, blunts, pipes, and bongs is a prison sentence of three years.
Penalties for Cultivation of Marijuana (Federal Law)
Under federal law, penalties for cultivation or growing of marijuana depend on the number of plants involved.
- The maximum penalty for the sale of fewer than 50 marijuana plants is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
- The maximum penalty for growing between 50 and 99 marijuana plants is 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.
- The maximum penalty for growing between 100 and 999 marijuana plants is 40 years in prison and a fine of $500,000.
Medical Marijuana Possession Charges In California
How Much Medical Marijuana Can a Patient Possess?
In a 2010 case called People v. Kelly, The California Supreme Court overturned laws that regulated the amount of marijuana a medical marijuana patient could legally possess. Qualified patients may now possess as much marijuana as is “reasonably related to the patient’s current medical needs.” This restored the possession guidelines of California’s medical marijuana law to its original form as it was enacted by voters as Proposition 215 in 1996.
In 2003, the legislature modified Proposition 215 by enacting SB 420. SB 420, in part, placed limits on how much marijuana a patient could possess or grow, unless a county allowed a larger quantity or if the patient had a doctor’s note saying that more than the legal limit was needed. In Kelly, the California Supreme Court held the SB 420 possession limits were an unconstitutional amendment to a voter-enacted law.
So now, under California’s marijuana laws, if you are a qualified medical marijuana patient who is charged with illegally cultivating or transporting marijuana or possessing marijuana for sale, the prosecution must now prove that the amount you possessed was not “reasonably related” to your medical needs.
It may be very difficult for the prosecutor to prove what is not “reasonably related” to your medical needs. The police are not generally qualified to assess how much marijuana is needed for a specific medical condition nor do they have any training about how to differentiate a quantity of marijuana for medical use and a quantity of marijuana for sales. (See case People v. Chakos (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 357). On the other hand, the defense can no longer raise a defense solely on the basis that a patient was “within the statutory limits” of weight or number of plants. The statutory limits are gone, and it could give prosecutors a lot more leeway to file cases on people who would not have been charged before Kelly.
The bottom line is this: As a California medical marijuana patient wrongfully charged of possession for sale, transportation, or cultivation of marijuana, you may now need to show more than your doctor’s written recommendation. Your defense strategy may require medical and scientific evidence from expert witnesses.
Defense Against Federal Marijuana Crime Charges
There is no area of drug law where the difference between California and federal law is greater than with respect to marijuana. When most people think of a typical marijuana arrest, they picture someone who was caught with a few joints or who is accused of being a local dealer. They may also picture a medical marijuana dispensary or clinic.
This is not what federal marijuana law or federal marijuana prosecutions are like. In contrast to California law, where relatively small amounts of marijuana are often involved, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and other federal law enforcement agencies devote much of their resources to cases where they can prosecute many people for growing, selling, or distributing large quantities of marijuana.
The distinction between federal and California state marijuana cases is critical because most criminal cases are handled in state court. As a result, most criminal defense lawyers lack experience in defending federal marijuana cases.
Federal Prosecutors Focus on Large-Scale Marijuana Conspiracies
When Federal Customs agents, the DEA, or FBI get involved in a marijuana investigation, they are looking for significant amounts of marijuana. Thus, for example, recent arrests in the Los Angeles area have involved the seizure of hundreds of pounds, and sometimes tons, of marijuana. These seizures can take place at border crossings, on boats off the coast of California, and in connection with otherwise routine stops of automobiles.
The most common mistake made by people who have any involvement in a marijuana case is to assume that their involvement was too minor to be a real problem. That is not how federal conspiracy law works. Under 18 U.S.C. Sections 371 and 846, when people are charged with participating in a conspiracy, they can be found guilty of all the illegal acts committed by any member of the conspiracy. Thus, for example, even someone who had a relatively small role in a marijuana operation, such as allegedly picking up or transporting just one shipment, or providing the tools used to grow marijuana, can be charged with the overall conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, or sell marijuana. This is true even if the person doesn’t know or has never even met most of the other people who are alleged to be part of the conspiracy.
Don’t Talk to Federal Agents Without First Talking to Your Lawyer
Because federal agencies are focused on uncovering conspiracies, they encourage people to talk and share information with them. One common strategy is for FBI, DEA, and Immigration agents to make a situation seem less dangerous than it is. Thus, they may tell someone that they are only a witness. They may leave their business card on someone’s door or windshield, asking them to call. They may also follow them for days and track their movements. What the federal agents don’t disclose, however, is that they may have already obtained damaging documents or statements from other people about the “witness.”
Don’t do it. Never talk to a federal agent or prosecutor before first speaking with an experienced federal marijuana defense lawyer. This can be the single most important step you can take to help yourself.
How We Can Assist You
Whether your situation involves the DEA, FBI, or ICE, or whether you may only be a “witness” in a marijuana case, or you have been accused of being more actively involved in a federal marijuana conspiracy, the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg will aggressively defend any marijuana-related charge based on our extensive experience in federal court. Read our testimonials to find out why we are the defense best suited for you.
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