It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time when news of celebrities being arrested for marijuana in Los Angeles was a regular thing. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton and Neil Young were arrested during a jam session in Topanga Canyon in 1968 when the police showed up after a noise complaint and found marijuana (Stephen Stills escaped out a window). Going back further, jazz legend Louis Armstrong was arrested in 1930 outside Los Angeles’ Cotton Club for marijuana, and even served jail time. And for every celebrity, there are no doubt hundreds and even thousands of people that have been arrested for marijuana in Southern California. And sometimes it can feel like getting arrested for marijuana is purely a thing of the past, but having marijuana in your car can still get you into hot water with law enforcement right here in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.
You Can Be Arrested for Having an Open Container of Marijuana
Voters in California passed Proposition 64 in November 2016 which made the recreational use of marijuana legal, as well as the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. But, just as with alcohol, it is illegal to have an open container of marijuana in your car, whether you are under the influence or not. Thus, those travelling with marijuana should always keep it secure, unopened, and stowed.
You Can Be Arrested For Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
Again, as with alcohol which is of course legal, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. What makes this tricky is that, while California does have a blood-alcohol-content (BAC) standard of .08% for driving under the influence of alcohol (note: this means you can always be arrested for driving with a .08% or higher BAC, but you can also be arrested for a lower BAC if your driving is impaired), there is not a similar legal threshold for marijuana.
Thus, police may arrest you for driving under the influence of marijuana simply based on probable cause that your driving is impaired by marijuana.
You Can Be Arrested If Police Believe There is an Intent to Sell
Although Proposition 64 legalized the recreational use of marijuana, it did not legalize the unauthorized sale and distribution of marijuana. To sell marijuana you must be licensed by the authorities and in compliance with state and local laws.
If police officers stop you with marijuana in your car, and have probable cause to believe you have intent to sell the marijuana or otherwise assist another in doing so, they may arrest you, regardless of how it is stored (although they also need legal justification for searching your car).
Note, again, that possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is illegal and this may also lead to an intent to sell charge.
You Must Be 21 to Possess Marijuana Legally
In all cases, persons must be 21 to legally possess marijuana. Thus, those under 21 found with marijuana in their car face arrest.
Marijuana is Illegal Under Federal Law
Finally, marijuana does remain a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Although California state and local law enforcement does not enforce federal drug laws, in the event you are stopped by federal authorities (FBI, DEA), they may arrest you for violating federal drug laws.
Fighting For You in Your California Marijuana Case
If you have been placed under arrest or are under investigation for marijuana or other narcotics in California, it is important to work with criminal defense attorneys who will fight for your rights.
At the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys will work with you from the very start to reach a positive outcome: a dropped investigation, a dismissal of charges, a not guilty verdict, a reduced sentence, or an alternative treatment program. Call the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC today to get your best defense now.