California Drug Cultivation and Manufacturing Laws

In general, it is a crime to manufacture controlled substances and illegal drugs in California. However, the cultivation of marijuana, within certain limits, is allowed for personal use. The criminal charges related to the cultivation or manufacturing of drugs depend on the type of drug.

In California, possession of marijuana by adults 21 and older is legal for use in a private location. Other marijuana-related activities are criminalized and under California state laws, such as selling marijuana without a license. It became legal plant, grow, cultivate, harvest, and prepare marijuana plants with a docotor's recommendation for medical marijuana in 1996. This was greatly expanded when voters approved a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana, which allows adults 21 and older to grow up to six plants on their property as long as it is in a secure location not visible to the public.

California state laws also prohibit the manufacturing and processing of illegal controlled substances and dangerous drugs listed by the California Penal Code. These include cocaine base, cocaine, hallucinogenic drugs, opium, and many others. Anyone who manufactures one of the listed drugs may be prosecuted on felony charges by the state.

In California, it is also unlawful to possess specified chemicals used as ingredients in drug manufacturing. For example, state laws criminalize the possession of chemicals used to manufacture phencyclidine (PCP) and methamphetamine. If a prosecutor can show that the defendant possessed those chemicals with an intent to manufacture PCP or methamphetamine, the defendant may be found guilty of a felony under state law.

California Drug Cultivation Laws in Brief

Below you will find key provisions of California's drug cultivation laws.


California Health and Safety Code Sections 11350-11392 et. seq. (Uniform Controlled Substances Act)


  • Growing marijuana with intent to sell to recreational users may result in felony sentencing for a term of imprisonment lasting up to sixteen months, two years, or three years in county jail. Charges may be reduced to a misdemeanor if the defendant is able to prove there was no intent to sell. The state can also consider the defendant's prior or current conviction record to enhance the sentence or require imprisonment in state prison. *Licenses for retail sales of marijuana for non-medical users will be issued by January 1, 2018.
  • Manufacturing of a controlled substance or illegal drug may be punished by felony sentencing. A conviction may result in a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment for a term of three, five, or seven years in state prison. The prosecutor may also request enhanced sentencing based on the defendant's prior or current criminal record.
  • Possession of chemicals or compounds used to manufacture specified drugs, including PCP or methamphetamine, may result in a sentence of two, four, or six years in state prison. The prosecutor can also look at the defendant's prior criminal history and past offenses related to drug manufacturing.

Possible Defenses

  • Defendant is over the age of 21 and cultivating marijuana within the stated regulations
  • Defendant has doctor's oral or written recommendation for medical marijuana
  • Defendant is the caregiver of a patient who has received a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana
  • Defendant has a state-issued license for drug manufacturing or a permit for the defendant to possess specific chemicals

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

California Codes and Legal Research Options

Additional Resources

If you have additional questions about California’s drug cultivation laws, click on the following links:

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The topic of drug laws and regulations in California is extremely controversial, with some groups advocating for a complete ban on all intoxicating substances, while others believe the state has no business regulating "victimless crimes" and all drugs should be legal. Regardless, if you are accused of drug cultivation you'll want a strong California criminal defense attorney on your side. Start with a free case review today.

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