Is Synthetic Marijuana Illegal in California?

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Given the rise in the use of synthetic drugs, most of which are extremely dangerous, a number of states have passed laws banning the use and sale of such substances.

California recently followed suit. In 2016, California passed a law banning synthetic marijuana, which is commonly sold at tobacco and head shops under names such as “K2” and “spice.” 

Synthetic marijuana, which is designed to produce similar effects to marijuana, has a number of severe side effects, including:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Death

Possession and Use

Initially, California’s ban on synthetic marijuana did not make possession or use of the substance illegal. Instead, the law banned the sale, distribution, and administration of synthetic marijuana. 

However, amid public outcry over a string of synthetic marijuana overdoses, legislation was passed making the possession and use of synthetic marijuana illegal.

Penalties for Possession and Use of Synthetic Marijuana

In California, a first offense charge for the possession or use of synthetic marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to $250.

Subsequent offenses for the possession or use of synthetic marijuana can be charged as misdemeanors and result in jail time and further fines.

Other Synthetic Drugs

In addition to its ban on synthetic marijuana, California has also enacted legislation banning synthetic stimulant compounds or derivatives, which are commonly sold under the name “bath salts.” 

Bath salts are designed to mimic the effects of street drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamine.

Like synthetic marijuana, these substances are available in tobacco and head shops, and they are usually marketed as plant food or other innocuous products.

Equally as dangerous as synthetic marijuana, the use of bath salts can result in the following side effects:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hyperactivity
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Death

The possession or use of synthetics such as bath salts in California can result in a $250 fine.

Federal Law

In addition to California’s ban on synthetic drugs such as bath salts and spice, federal law also has banned the possession or sale of such substances.

In fact, a number of synthetic drug products are classified as Schedule I drugs, which means that the federal government considers them equally as dangerous as the most damaging and addictive drugs available.

The possession of a Schedule I drug is usually considered a felony under federal law, and conviction can result in high fines and incarceration.

San Diego Drug Crime Lawyers

Due to the potential consequences involved, it is important that anyone charged with a drug crime in San Diego seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, our experienced criminal defense attorneys provide all of our clients with expert legal guidance in order to achieve the most favorable results possible.

The talent and experience of our attorneys ensure that our client’s cases are handled expertly and with the utmost care.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges of any kind in California, please contact us immediately for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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