Anyone conducting business in cannabis surely knows that under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. So the risk is apparent that at any time Federal authorities could come and shut you down but don’t think that just because cannabis is legal in California, you do not have to worry about the State.
California law mandates that you can only sell cannabis if you have obtained a license to do so. These licenses being issued by the Bureau Of Cannabis Control (“BCC”). If you don’t have a license, then selling cannabis or transporting it in order to sell it is still a crime under H&S Code §11360.
California State Authorities Cracking Down On Illegal Cannabis Operations
And so in the month of June 2019 the State authorities have orchestrated their second major raid of an illegal cannabis operation which was operating out of Santa Barbara. Earlier in the month State authorities raided an illegal cannabis operation in Riverside County which we reported in our blog.
In a previous blog we wrote about Governor Gavin Newsom’s promise made in February 2019 to deploy the California National Guard against marijuana grows in California. Multijurisdictional task forces have long been deployed against marijuana grows in California as we noted in our blog on a raid that occurred in the City of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County earlier this year.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department Raids Illegal Cannabis Operations In Santa Maria
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department announced on June, 17, 2019, detectives from the Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team executed four search warrants related to an illegal cannabis cultivation site outside the City of Buellton. These warrants were the culmination of an approximate two-month investigation involving fraudulently obtained State temporary and provisional cannabis licenses and the suspected sales of undocumented cannabis. The search warrants took place in the City of Santa Maria, in San Luis Obispo County and in the 1800 block of West Highway 246, just outside Buellton City limits. The operation involved 35 detectives, investigators and Wildlife Officers from various agencies. These agencies included the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team, Special Investigations Bureau, Criminal Investigations Bureau, Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Army National Guard Counter Drug Task Force.
The cultivation area itself was located on a property of approximately 187 acres of agricultural land, with just over 60 acres of it being used for the commercial cultivation of cannabis. From the initial investigation, it appeared the site was used to continually cultivate cannabis throughout the year and at the time of the search, approximately 40 acres was presently growing, with a large amount having been recently harvested. It took a total of four days for the team to seize approximately 20 tons of processed cannabis and eradicate approximately 350,000 cannabis plants, several of which were nearly ready to harvest.
This investigation was the result of complaints from the public, tips and information provided to the Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team. Now the case will be forwarded to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office for review of criminal charges.
Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.
For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.
But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:
- Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
- Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis;
- Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
- Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.
In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.
Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:
- You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
- Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.
What Should You Do?
You can count on other county governments coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public.
Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits.