What Do Federal Marijuana Laws Mean for Californians?

Once Proposition 64 officially became state law in California, many proponents of marijuana rejoiced. Previously classified as an illegal substance, you can now find adult-use recreational dispensaries everywhere, in addition to the medicinal-only dispensaries scattered through the state before.

However, marijuana law is complicated by the fact that federal law still classifies it as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and can still prosecute any individual for the use, possession, sale, or trafficking of this substance. Because of the Supremacy Clause, federal law always supersedes state law. So what exactly does this mean for California consumers, and can you still be arrested for marijuana-related crimes while in the state? Our Riverside County drug crimes Attorney discuss the intersection of federal and state law in this post.

What Marijuana Crimes Can I Be Arrested for in California?

If a federal agent catches you smoking marijuana or eating an edible product, you could be subject to the same serious criminal charges as anyone in a state without legalized marijuana. You’re not allowed to smoke out on the beach, or in most public places throughout California. Under the state law, you can only have one ounce of marijuana at a time. And selling or giving someone marijuana without the proper licensing can make you subject to both state and federal charges, and may be ruthlessly prosecuted by the federal government if you are caught.

However, for the most part, the federal government has come to an uneasy truce with state governments that have chosen to legalize marijuana. Although the CSA prohibits marijuana for medical use, in 2014, Congress approved a budget measure that effectively prevents the Department of Justice from actively fighting state laws. This amendment, called the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, stops the federal government from using funds to interfere with state rules about use, cultivation, or distribution, specifically for medical marijuana.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to recreational marijuana, but the principle remains the same. At the moment, the federal government has chosen not to focus on prosecuting individuals for either recreational or medical use in specific states, but rather on the black market industry that often accompanies legal marijuana in states like Colorado and California.

What Other Repercussions Can I Face for Recreational Marijuana Use?

Unfortunately, although you’re unlikely to face criminal charges for using marijuana on an individual basis, you may still face some challenges if you decide to purchase this drug. Because employers were explicitly excluded from the new laws passed in 2016, you can still be fired from your job if you use marijuana off-duty. This is also because companies adhere to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is a federal law. While not all occupations are allowed to regularly drug test their employees, an employer could justify dismissing you on the basis of THC levels in a drug screen – especially if your job crosses state lines in some capacity.

You may also encounter difficulties with housing. Many landlords and housing companies can include that they prohibit illicit drugs, so if you are in violation of a lease contract, they may have grounds to evict you or to cancel certain benefits.

Contact a Drug Crimes Attorney in Riverside County , San Bernardino, and Murrieta

Although the details regarding marijuana legislation are ever-changing and extremely complex, one thing is certain: You may need assistance from a skilled drug crimes lawyer if you are caught using or selling marijuana in California. If that’s the case, our Riverside County Attorney at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich can assist you. We have more than 50 years of combined experience helping our clients to get their lives back on track, and we can fight for your rights if you’ve been unjustly accused.

Contact us today at (951) 506-6654 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation on your California drug crimes case.


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