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What to know about California drug laws

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2022 | Drug Crimes

While California has lighter sentencing on possession of controlled substances, the penalties for cultivating, manufacturing and intent to distribute are harsher. It helps to know the basics of the state’s drug laws in case a person gets charged.

Overview California drug law

California classifies controlled substances into six penalty groups, ranging from Schedule I to VI based on the potential for addiction. Schedule I substances, which include opiates and cocaine, have the highest potential for addiction with no medical benefits. It’s also helpful to know that drug charges fall under one of three groups:

• Infractions, which don’t include jail
• Misdemeanors, or charges with minor penalties
• Felonies, which commonly involve jail

In 2014, California passed Proposition 47, which changes some felony drug crimes to misdemeanors, except for prior offenses. If a person’s sentencing for a felony has been fulfilled, they may apply to drop it to a misdemeanor for qualifying cases.


Penalties for simple possession of meth include a $1,000 fine, up to one year of jail and/or community service. Personal possession of 1 gram or less of a controlled substance commonly does not include jail time or fines. Possession with intent to distribute any amount commonly carries a six-month jail term and up to a $500 fine.

Delivery or sale of any amount commonly includes penalties of up to a $500 fine and six months of jail. If a minor is involved in the selling of a controlled substance, the jail term increases to three to seven years.

Some drug offenses come with fewer penalties, but it can still make getting jobs or qualifying for a certain immigration status harder. Some first offenders may be able to get charges reduced through a plea deal.