The Dos and Don’ts of Medical Marijuana Cultivation in California

Despite the legalization of growing medical marijuana in California in 1996, it still remains illegal under federal law to grow, sell, or use the drug. Those who do grow within the state’s regulations do not usually find any problems with the federal government. The legalization of medical marijuana cultivation has been used as a medical defense in people who are suffering from illnesses such as chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety. However, specifics between both state and federal regulations still remain in the possession, sale, and cultivation of marijuana.

Marijuana and the California Law

  • Possession of one ounce of marijuana or less is an infraction, punishable with a $100 fine
  • Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable up to $500 plus six months in jail
  • Possession with intent to sell and cultivation are considered felonies, punishable with a possible state prison sentence

There are many other factors that can also affect jail time and fines, such as how many plants and any prior convictions.

Marijuana and the Federal Law

Despite California state regulations, the federal government can take down individuals participating in medical marijuana cultivation based on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA is “the federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain substances is regulated.” Medical or not, marijuana is considered illegal as a Schedule I substance, similar to heroin, under federal jurisdiction.

Being a Schedule I substance, federal punishment for marijuana conviction can be harsh. For example, no matter how grown a marijuana plant may be, it automatically counts as a full plant as long as it is growing, which is equivalent to 100 grams of marijuana. It is common for a marijuana defendant to be convicted in federal court, reaching sentences that range from one day to twenty years.

You and the Law

Being familiar of the factors that can affect how much you will be fined or the severity of the punishment is important. The conviction between the intent to sell and the recreational use of marijuana is extremely different. Growing a plant that is closer to a school and kids versus a place that is further, can affect an individual’s punishment as well.

If you want to avoid harsh state penalties, do not grow an abundance of marijuana plants. The fewer, the better. This will attract less attention of federal authorities. Also, you want to suffice your own medical needs. If you are caught of an excessive amount that is more than medically needed, there is a high risk that you will be charged with a felony.

Your Rights and the Law

Be aware of your rights when it comes to the cultivation of marijuana in California. A cop must have a search warrant present to have the authority to search your house and property. Also, you practice the right to counsel. You are not required to answer any questions without a lawyer.


If you currently have a grow operation or a dispensary, ensure that it is fully qualified within state regulations and retain a lawyer, just in case. Attorney Lauren J. Johnson has successfully represented clients accused of drug crimes, both possession and intent to sell for marijuana and other narcotics. If you or a loved one is facing a drug charge, please feel free to contact our office .