California Marijuana Distribution Laws

What Is Possession With Intent To Distribute Marijuana in California?

Marijuana possession with the intent to distribute in California refers to selling, delivering, or providing marijuana illegally to another person. It is different from simple marijuana possession since the prosecution is usually required to prove that the defendant has no intention to use the substance but intends to distribute it. In simple drug possession, the individual charged with the crime has no desire to sell or distribute the drug but was only found in possession of marijuana.

In order for a prosecutor to prove that a defendant is guilty of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in California, the prosecutor must establish that:

  • The defendant possessed marijuana
  • The defendant was aware of possessing marijuana
  • The defendant was aware that marijuana was a controlled substance
  • When the defendant possessed marijuana, the individual has the intention to sell it or have another individual sell it for services, money, or anything of value
  • The defendant illegally possessed a usable amount of marijuana

An intent to distribute marijuana may be proven through direct or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence may be a suspect's statement that the individual has marijuana to sell or if a defendant sold marijuana to an undercover police officer. Circumstantial evidence may be the presence of packaging of marijuana in baggies or bindles, large amounts of cash or weapon, or large quantities of marijuana on the defendant.

Can You Enter a Dispensary at 18 in California?

You are not allowed to be inside a dispensary in California unless you are at least 21. However, you may visit a dispensary if you are at least 18 and possess a medical recommendation for marijuana use. To purchase recreational marijuana at a cannabis dispensary, you must be 21 or older. You must provide a valid identification card to prove you are of legal age before entering a dispensary.

Can You Enter a Dispensary Without a Card in California?

You only need to show a valid identification card showing that you are 21 or older to purchase recreational marijuana in California. No cards are required to purchase adult-use marijuana. However, if you intend to purchase medical marijuana, you must obtain a medical marijuana identification card before visiting a cannabis dispensary.

What Are the Penalties for Possession With Intent To Distribute First Offense in California?

According to Section 11357 of the California Health and Safety Code (HSC), the possession of no more than 28.5 grams of marijuana for personal use is legal for persons aged 21 or older. Individuals aged at least 21 may also possess up to 8 grams of hashish or concentrated cannabis. Per Section 11359 of the California HSC, any person aged 18 or over found in possession of cannabis (more than one ounce) with the intent to distribute may be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 6 months or by a fine of no more than $500, or by both such imprisonment and fine. If the offender is under the age of 18, they will be instructed to attend mandatory drug counseling classes and do community service.

California law includes a sentence increase where drug-related distribution operations occur within 1,000 feet of schools, school-related programs, or playgrounds during operating hours. In such an instance, a further one to two years may be added to the imprisonment sentence. If the offender is at least 48 months older than the minor involved in the drug offense, the offender risks up to three years imprisonment in a separate and additional penalty.

Federally, with marijuana remaining a prohibited substance under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), first-time offenders caught in possession of marijuana (up to 50 kg of the substance) with the intent to distribute are liable to be punished by up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. If the amount of marijuana found in possession of the offender is between 50-99 kg, the punishment increases to up to 20 years imprisonment and $1,000,000 for an individual, or $5,000,000 if other than an individual.

Per federal law, if an individual is found in possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute more than 5 grams of the substance to a minor under 21, the possible penalties will be doubled. If marijuana distribution occurs within 1,000 feet of a playground, school, public housing, or within 100 feet of a public pool, youth center, or video arcade, the potential penalties will also be doubled.

Is It Legal To Sell Weed in California?

No. To sell weed in California, you must have obtained a license from the state Department of Cannabis Control. However, you may give away your weed if you are 21 or older, provided you receive no form of compensation for the act. Under California marijuana laws, you may give away up to 28.5 grams of weed for no remuneration. California considers individuals to have sold marijuana if they exchange the substance for money, services, or anything of value.

How To Sell to Dispensaries in California?

Considering the impact of the cannabis industry on the economy of California, it is no surprise that Californians are exploiting avenues to partake in the industry. Although an individual may sell marijuana to dispensaries, such a person must obtain a seller's permit and a cannabis distributor license in the state before commencing such operations. Note that you will also be required to obtain approval from local authorities in your municipality or area before commencing a cannabis business. Other things that may be required include:

  • A cannabis tax permit from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA)
  • Business registration certification from the California Secretary of State
  • Proof of insurance
  • Transportation procedures
  • Inventory procedures
  • Non-laboratory quality control procedures
  • Security procedures
  • Proof of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance

How To Get a Distribution License in California

Before applying for a distribution license, you must determine the city or municipality where you intend to set up your facility. This step is vital because California allows municipalities to opt out of permitting certain cannabis operations within their jurisdictions. Upon completing local requirements and other license application requirements, you may apply for a distribution license with the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC). The DCC provides application resources on its website to aid applications in completing their applications.

To commence the licensing application, create an account on the DCC licensing system. Then select your desired distributor license type (you may apply for a cannabis distributor licensee (Type 11) or cannabis distributor transport only licensee (Type 13)) and complete the required fields in the system. Provide information about your business's owners and financial interest holders and submit any supporting documentation. The licensing system enables you to store your progress as you proceed through the application, even allowing you to have an attorney review your application before submission. After completing your application, sign it electronically and submit it to the DCC.

Once you have completed your license application, the system will notify you on how to pay your application fee. It is recommended that you provide your application fee payment so that DCC may begin reviewing your application as soon as possible. After review and approval, the DCC will contact you to pay the license fee. The license fee is determined by your estimated gross revenue. You may complete the payment by electronic transfer, check, money order, or credit card. You may also pay cash in person by making an appointment with the DCC office. After receiving your license fee, the DCC will issue your cannabis distribution license online. Your DCC cannabis distribution license is valid for one year. After the DCC provides your license, you may download your license certificate from the licensing system.

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California Marijuana Distribution Laws