Personal Possession of Marijuana

Personal possession of marijuana is a serious charge that can lead to fines and jail time (thus, resulting in bail). It is different from possessing marijuana for sales and cultivating marijuana under the California Health and Safety code. It is important to know the legal consequences of being charged with personal possession of marijuana.

The Definition of Personal Possession

Four elements determine whether a person can be charged with personal possession of marijuana. These four factors are legal possession, knowledge of the marijuana possessed, knowledge it is a drug and having enough that it could actually be used as a drug. Additionally, possession can be constructive or actual. Actual possession mean a person has the drug immediately in a bag or pocket. Constructive possession means the marijuana was located in an area like an apartment or locker that the individual had control over.

Arrest and Bail

There is a chance that people possessing less than a single ounce of marijuana might not be arrested. Individuals possessing more than this amount of marijuana in California are almost always arrested. The person will need to sit in jail until the court date unless bail is posted. Bail is an amount that can be paid to the court through a bail bond agency that allows the person to wait for trial outside of jail. Bail amounts are different in each county for personal marijuana possession. It can be as little as $500 in Los Angeles County or as high as $3,000 in Sacramento County. A bail bond agency can help to get this amount to the court. The amount is held until trial is over. The defendant then gets most of the bail amount back if no court dates were missed.


Personal possession of marijuana carries financial penalties in the form of fines. A person with less than an ounce of marijuana can be ordered to pay a maximum fine of $100. This fine increases to $500 if the individual was caught on school grounds with marijuana. Possessing more than an ounce of marijuana carries a maximum fine of $500. Maximum fines can be much higher if the person is carrying concentrated marijuana products like oils. The fines could increase if the individual has multiple arrests for personal marijuana possession.

Jail Time

Personal marijuana possession can lead to jail time after a guilty verdict. Not all cases end with jail time. Jail time is not an option for first-time offenders who had less than one ounce of marijuana. An individual with more than this amount could be sentenced to up to six months in jail based on the details of the case. Repeated offenses or possession of concentrated cannabis can result in up to a year in jail.

Additional and Alternative Punishments

Some situations could lead to additional or alternative punishments. People under 21 might lose a driver’s license or the ability to get one for a year. An alternative punishment might be drug diversion. This means the person goes to court-ordered drug rehabilitation. Successful completion of the program without getting into trouble can result in the charges being dropped.