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California Marijuana Laws

California marijuana laws changed drastically with the decriminalization of possession (under 28 grams) and legalization of medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) in 1996. The state's mairjuana laws were drastically relaxed once again in 2016 after voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which was on the ballot as Proposition 64. Under the new law, adults 21 and over may purchase, possess, and consume up to 1 oz. of marijuana in their private residence or in an establishment licensed for marijuana consumption. Adults also will be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants and keep the herb that is produced, as long as it is done in a secure space not visible to the public.

While most criminal sanctions for marijuana were lifted immediately after the general election, the regulation of businesses, production facilities, and marijuana consumption establishments will be phased in over time. Licenses are scheduled to be granted in Janurary 2018.

Medical Marijuana Protections

In order to qualify for the protections afforded by California's medical cannabis laws, a person must be either a qualified patient or a primary caregiver. A person is considered to be a qualified patient if a physician recommends or approves of their medical use of marijuana. Typically, this means that the doctor will give a written recommendation to the patient as proof of the patient's status that entitles them to use, possess, and cultivate cannabis.

The legalization of recreational marijuana leaves the medical marijuana laws and regulations intact, while patients with a doctor's recommendation are exempt from sales tax.

The basics of California marijuana laws are highlighted in the table below. See Drug Manufacturing and Cultivation and Medical Marijuana Laws by State to learn more.

Code Sections

Health & Safety §11000, et seq.; 11357, et seq.; §11362.5 medical use of marijuana

*Check back for statutory changes reflecting the new Adult Use of Marijuana Act, including regulations for business licenses that will phase in at a later time.

Possession
  • Up to 28.5 grams of herb or up to 8 grams of concentrate (hashish, etc.): Legal for those 21 and over, an infraction for those 18 and under (mandatory drug education course and community service)
  • Over 28.5 grams: misdemeanor ($500 fine and/or jail sentence of up to 6 months)
Sale
  • Sale without a license: misdemeanor (up to 6 months in jail and/or a $500 fine)

*Regulations for legal producers, retailers, and other associated marijuana businesses will be phased in beginning in 2018.

Additional Limitations
  • May not consume marijuana in public
  • May not consume marijuana while driving or as a passenger in a car, plane, or boat
  • Employers may still enforce "drug-free" policies that include marijuana screening
  • Landlords may prohibit the possession of marijuana on their premises

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.

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The legalization of marijuana in California -- despite its continued prohibition at the federal level -- will no doubt create some confusion. But keep in mind that there are still ways to be in violation of state law, such as possessing or growing more than is allowed. If you get charged with a marijuana crime it is time to contact a local attorney for a free case review to discuss how they can help with your case.

Next Steps
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