California Cannabis Laws: Is Marijuana Legal in California?

is marijuana legal in california
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Beyond California’s thriving legal marijuana industry, the state has a lengthy cannabis legalization journey. From 1996 when California became the first state to use the ballot initiative to pass a marijuana law, to date, the state’s cannabis landscape has continued to evolve and adapt in line with current realities. This post explores all you need to know about California’s cannabis laws including answers to key questions about the industry.

Is weed legal in California

Yes, recreational use of cannabis is legal for adults 21 and over in California.

When was weed legalized in California?

California legalized adult use of cannabis on November 8, 2016, via a ballot initiative.

Are edibles legal in California?

Yes, adult use of marijuana in all forms including edibles is legal in California.

Is medical marijuana legal in California?

Yes, expectedly, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is legal in California for adults over 21.

How to get medical marijuana in California

In general, residents of California can purchase marijuana for both adult and medical use from licensed dispensaries. The key difference is that since recreational cannabis sales are subject to 35% to 45% net effective tax, patients can easily exempt themselves by presenting their medical marijuana cards.

Can I go to a dispensary without a card in California?

Yes, you can go to a dispensary without a medical marijuana card in California. However, to benefit from the 35-40% recreational tax exemption and additional discounts, you’ll need to present your card.

How long does it take to get your medical card in California?

It generally takes around 30 days for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to approve applications for its Medical Marijuana Identity Card (MMIC) Program.

Does California accept out-of-state MMJ cards?

California does not directly accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards. However, visitors are allowed to apply for California’s medical marijuana cards. This will essentially allow them to legally make purchases while in California.

Marijuana bills/laws in California & key questions

In 1996, Proposition 215 or the Compassionate Use Act was passed by California voters through a ballot initiative. Proposition 215 essentially allowed patients and their designated caregivers to legally possess and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes. This was the first instance where a ballot initiative was used to pass marijuana legislation at the state level. Senate Bill 420 was subsequently passed to clarify the mandate and implementation of Proposition 215 in 2003.

Again, California voters passed Proposition 64, also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act on November 8, 2016. This Act legalized the sale, possession, cultivation, and consumption of cannabis for adults 21 and older for recreational purposes. It also established taxes for the sales and cultivation of recreational cannabis across California.

To address some of the concerns brought about by Proposition 64, the state legislature established the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) in June 2017. After going into effect on January 1, 2018, MAUCRSA simplified the licensing requirements and clarified the rules surrounding medical marijuana in the state. MAUCRSA primarily established all the regulations and laws governing both medical and adult-use of cannabis in California.

How much weed can I have? (in oz)

The marijuana laws in California currently allow adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate. Medical marijuana users with a valid MMIC can however possess and transport up to 8 ounces of any form of cannabis. 

Is weed decriminalized in California?

Yes, weed is currently decriminalized in California for all possessions for personal use. 

Is there a fine or penalty for marijuana possession in California?

There is no penalty for simple possession of marijuana in California within the approved limits. This however changes for possession outside the legal limits. For instance, possessing over an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor with up to 6 months of jail time and a $500 fine.

Also, it’s illegal to smoke marijuana products including vapes, or even open them in public. Doing this is considered an infraction with a $100 fine. There are also heftier fines for doing this near a school or in a vehicle, boat, or plane.

How many marijuana plants can you grow in California?

Recreational users of cannabis can grow up to 6 plants at home, regardless of maturity levels. Meanwhile, medical marijuana users in California can grow up to 6 immature or 12 mature plants from home.

California dispensaries laws

The California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch (MCSB) is responsible for licensing and regulating commercial cannabis manufacturing in the state. MCSB is one of three licensing authorities in California. The complete list of licensing and regulatory authorities are:

  • Bureau of Cannabis Control: BCC is responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, third-party testing laboratories, and microbusinesses.
  • Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch: MCSB licenses manufacturers of cannabis products including nearly all non-flower products like edibles, oils, tinctures, etc.
  • CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing: CalCannabis licenses cultivators and tracks the movement of cannabis from seed to sale in California.

California growers laws

The California Department of Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing (CAL) division is tasked with licensing and regulating cultivators of cannabis across the state. CAL is also responsible for running California’s marijuana seed-to-sale tracking system.

Closing Thoughts

California has a rapidly advancing cannabis industry. According to Forbes, legal marijuana sales in California crossed $4 billion in 2020, up by 57% from 2019. This further highlights the importance of the industry in revenue generation for states. It will also continue to fuel the need to continuously evolve and improve the enabling marijuana laws in the state.