The possession and sale of cannabis are legal across the State of California for both medicinal and recreational purposes. With proper licensing, you can set up a cannabis distribution company and sell to just about anyone without the need for a prescription or other hurdles. However, like alcohol, cannabis possession and sale are restricted to adults. Despite the legalization of cannabis, selling marijuana to a minor is an extremely serious offense. Read on to learn about the law prohibiting the sale of marijuana to minors and the potential consequences. If you have been arrested or charged with the sale of marijuana to a minor, call a dedicated Glendale criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to start building your defense and protecting your cannabis enterprise.
California Health and Safety Code Section 11361
California Health and Safety Code (HSC) Section 11361 criminalizes the distribution of marijuana to a minor. Specifically, under section 11361, it is a crime for anyone over the age of 18 to:
- Hire, employ, or use a minor to unlawfully transport, sell, prepare to sell, or give away marijuana;
- Sell, administer, or offer marijuana to a minor; or
- Induce a minor (under the age of 18) to use marijuana
Section 11361 is thus not limited to the sale of marijuana to a minor. It criminalizes selling, administering, or even offering marijuana to a minor, as well as inducing a minor to use marijuana. Moreover, the law criminalizes employing or otherwise using a minor to distribute marijuana–if you operate a dispensary, it is vital that all of your employees, couriers and everyone else along the distribution chain are of proper age. You might even face charges if you employ a minor to help prepare, carry, or promote the sale of marijuana.
In order to obtain a conviction under section 11361, the prosecution must demonstrate the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution must also demonstrate that: (1) you knew of the presence of the controlled substance; (2) you knew the nature of the substance as a controlled substance; (3) you were 18 years of age or older; (4) the marijuana was in a usable amount; and (5) the person receiving the marijuana was under the age of 18.
Punishment for Violating HSC 11361
The distribution of marijuana to a minor is a very serious crime. A violation of any part of HSC 11361 is punishable as a felony. If the defendant is convicted of giving (rather than selling) marijuana to a minor between the ages of 14 and 17, the defendant faces either three, four, or five years in state prison. If the minor was under the age of 14, or if the defendant sold marijuana to or employed the minor as described above, the defendant could face either three, five, or seven years in state prison upon conviction.
To be clear, the lower maximum penalty only applies if the defendant is convicted of furnishing, administering, giving, or offering marijuana to a minor aged 14 years or older. All other offenses under the statute carry a seven-year maximum sentence, even if the minor was over age 14.
Defending Against Charges of Distributing Marijuana to a Minor
There are many legal defenses to section 11361 that can undermine a prosecutor’s case. The prosecution must prove the defendant knew the substance was marijuana, for example; if the defendant gave away a bag of something without knowing what it was, then they may not be guilty of the crime.
Ignorance of the minor’s age may or may not be a defense, depending on the specific charges. If the defendant is charged with unlawfully inducing a minor to use marijuana, then the defendant can offer the defense that they reasonably thought the minor was 18 or older. If the defendant is charged with selling to a minor, however, then reasonable belief that the minor was 18 or over is not a valid defense. Talk to your criminal defense attorney about your charges and your circumstances to find out what defenses may be available in your case.
Call a Seasoned California Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Defending Against Distribution Charges
If you’ve been arrested for distributing marijuana to a minor, or if you are facing other criminal charges in Los Angeles or Southern California, call McReynolds Vardanyan, LLP, in Glendale at 818-855-2115. Our California criminal defense attorneys will fight for your rights and your freedom throughout every step of your case.