California Opiate Laws: The Basics

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What does the law say about opiates like heroin or pain pills in California? To sum it up: It depends on how you get them, and what you’re planning to do with them.

What is the law around prescription opioids in California?

Due to the opioid crisis, government officials are calling for a crackdown on prescription opioids. This affects chronic pain patients and those who legitimately require opioids for medical reasons. California has an Effect on Intractable Pain Act which states, “A patient who suffers from severe chronic intractable pain has the option to choose opiate medication for the treatment of the severe chronic intractable pain as long as the prescribing is in conformance with Section 2241.5 of the Business and Professions Code.”

A dozen states have versions of these laws, called Intractable Pain Laws, created with the belief that pain patients have a right to receive treatment for their severe, chronic pain.

Looking for treatment for opioid addiction in California? Check out Workit Health.

What is the law around illegal opiates for personal use in California?

According to the Controlled Substances Act, heroin is Schedule I. Synthetic opioids like codeine and Oxycodone are Schedule II. Schedule I drugs have no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse, while Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse.

California Proposition 47, enacted in 2014, makes the possession of drugs for personal use a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Possession of Schedule I or Schedule II drugs for personal use in California are now punished as misdemeanors only, with penalties including up to one year in the county jail, not state prison, along with fines if the court sees fit.

What if you were selling opiates in California? breaks down penalties for selling drugs in California this way:

  • Transport, import, transfer, or sale of controlled substances may result in felony sentencing of 3 to 5 years. Transport from one California county to a non-contiguous county can result in an increased sentence of 3 to 9 years of imprisonment.

  • Crimes involving the hiring or employment of minors to sell or distribute controlled substances, or the sale of controlled substances to minors, can result in sentences of 3, 6, or 9 years in state prison.

  • California law allows adults 21 and older to transport less than 28.5 grams (or less than 8 g marijuana concentrate).

Want to read more yourself? The Laws can all be found in California Health and Safety Code Sections 11351-11379.

What should you do from here?

If you’re worried you’ve had a run in with the law, and aren’t sure what to expect next, seeking legal advice is always a good idea. You can visit for resources.

Another option is getting treatment. No matter what has happened in the past, today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can begin evidence-based treatment today, from home, with Workit Clinic in California.

A future free of addiction is in your hands.

Recover from addiction at home with medication and online therapy––from the leader in virtual addiction care.

As Workit Health’s VP of Marketing, Kali Lux leans in to the culture gap between addiction, recovery, and medicine. She’s interested in finding solutions that work for substance users better than drinking or drugging does, and believes Workit is one of them. She’s written extensively on her own experience through addiction into long-term recovery. You can connect with her on Twitter @kalireadsbooks.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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