California’s Marijuana Laws

Be safe. Know your legal limits.

over a century of prohibition, cannabis is accessible to all adults aged 21 and over for personal use. It is also available to adult and pediatric medical patients. Here is everything you need to know about marijuana regulations in the Golden State. 

Covid Restrictions 

Cannabis license-holding businesses were deemed essential while California’s stay at home order was in place. Licensed cannabis businesses were authorized to operate as usual as long as they adopted social distancing and anti-congregating policies and followed CDC guidance for businesses.  

The Origins of MAUCRSA: A Timeline

California’s marijuana laws are laid out in the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulatory and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). This is how California got there.

1996 – California’s Compassionate Use Act made it the first state to legalize medical marijuana. The law allowed qualified patients and their caregivers to cultivate or possess cannabis for medical purposes.

2015 – the state’s legislature passed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act in order to establish a regulatory framework for the regulation of the medical marijuana industry. This law created 3 licensing authorities: the Bureau of Cannabis Control, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch.

2016 – California voters authorize the recreational use of cannabis by passing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This law legalized the regulated sale, possession, and consumption of cannabis for personal use.

2017 – The Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act is merged with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act to form MAUCRSA. This law eliminated the need for multiple regulatory systems to oversee the medical and recreational cannabis industries.

2018 – MAUCRSA regulated personal use cannabis sales go into effect on January 1 ending the cannabis prohibition that began with the state’s Poison and Pharmacy Act of 1907. 2019 – Assembly Bill 1529 is signed into law, mandating that all vaping cartridges and devices sold in California are labeled  with the Universal Symbol for cannabis in order to ensure consumer awareness that the vaping product contains cannabis and to distinguish regulated cannabis vaping products from illicit ones.

2020 – The Bureau of Cannabis Control opens application for $30 million of research grants for projects related to the implementation and effect of adult use cannabis regulations. 

Possession and Purchasing Limits 

Adults aged 21 and over can possess, process, transport, purchase, or give away up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate.

Cannabis can be purchased from a licensed cannabis retail store.  Consumers must show a valid government issued photo ID to prove their age at the time of purchase.

You can possess cannabis out in public, but it must be contained in a childproof package or container that shields it from public view.  The age and possession limits are flexible for medical patients. 


Public consumption of cannabis is prohibited. This includes smoking, vaporizing, inhaling, or ingesting weed.  Cannabis cannot be consumed in the following places:

  • Any public space 
  • Any tobacco-free zone 
  • Within 1,000 feet of a children’s facility (school, daycare, youth community center). If you live in a residence within 1,000 feet of one of these institutions, you may consume cannabis in your private residence and out of public view. 

Cannabis can be consumed in the following places: 

  • Private residences and enclosed structures on the grounds of private residences 
  • Locally authorized cannabis lounges 

Cannabis Transport and Delivery 

Adults aged 21 and over are authorized to transport a maximum of 1 ounce of flower and 8 grams of concentrate in their vehicles.  It is illegal to transport an open package of cannabis products.  Cannabis products must be kept in closed, child-proof containers that are out of the driver’s reach.  Licensed cannabis delivery is legal state-wide, including in municipalities that have banned cannabis businesses. 

Why are Local Jurisdictions Suing the State of California Over Cannabis Delivery Services?

According to Proposition 64 (the adult-use cannabis law voters approved in 2016), licensed retailers are authorized to deliver cannabis state-wide. However, Prop. 64 also gives local jurisdictions the power to ban commercial cannabis activity within their borders. This has created some controversy when it comes to cannabis delivery services.

Jurisdictions that have banned commercial cannabis argue that they should also be able to ban cannabis delivery as well. However, the Bureau of Cannabis Control has made rules enabling cannabis businesses to deliver product to local jurisdictions with commercial cannabis bans as long as they are in compliance with state and their home-jurisdiction’s cannabis rules.

In response to this conflict, the following 24 cities and 1 county are suing the state of California in order to uphold their cannabis delivery bans: 

  • Agoura Hills
  • Angels Camp
  • Arcadia
  • Atwater
  • Beverly Hills
  • Ceres
  • Clovis
  • Covina
  • Dixon
  • Downey
  • McFarland
  • Newman
  • Oakdale
  • Palmdale
  • Patterson
  • Riverbank
  • Riverside
  • San Pablo
  • Sonora
  • Tehachapi
  • Temecula
  • Tracy
  • Turlock
  • Vacaville
  • Santa Cruz County 

If local jurisdictions are permitted to ban the delivery of cannabis within their borders, a significant portion of California residents would have to drive to another city to obtain cannabis. 

Driving Under the Influence 

It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. Although there is no single method for law enforcement to charge a person for driving under the influence of cannabis, police officers can make that call based on the following:

  • driving conduct (weaving between lanes, failing to stop at signal or stop sign, swerving, driving too slowly, sleeping at the wheel, causing an accident)
  • marijuana odor
  • statements 
  • demeanor 
  • field sobriety test performance 
  • presence of cannabis in your vehicle 

Penalties for a first-time cannabis DUI conviction include:

  • maximum of 6 months jail time
  • maximum fine of $1000
  • suspension of driver’s license for up to 6 months
  • 3-5 years summary or informal probation 
  • 3 months of mandatory DUI education classes 

Subsequent marijuana DUI offenses will result in harsher penalties. 

Exporting Cannabis 

Both federal and California’s state laws prohibit the export of cannabis across state lines, even if the other state has also legalized cannabis. 

Personal Cultivation 

California residents aged 21 and over are permitted to grow and possess up to 6 cannabis plants at a time on their private residence. Cannabis plants must be cultivated and secured in an enclosed, locked structure or room. The plants must be hidden from public view.  

Medical Marijuana in California 

Although cannabis is legal for personal use, there are still good reasons to obtain a medical marijuana card.  Patients have access to greater quantities of cannabis. Owners of a medical marijuana identification card may possess up to 8 ounces of dried flower. They may possess up to 6 mature cannabis plants or 12 immature cannabis plants in their personal gardens.

Additionally, pediatric patients may have access to cannabis medicine if their legal guardian can obtain a medical card on their behalf.  Patients with one or more of the following serious medical diagnoses may be eligible for a medical marijuana identification card:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea
  • Any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that severely limits a person’s quality of life and/or can cause substantial physical or mental harm if unmitigated 

Patients can obtain the necessary documentation to apply for a medical marijuana card from the California Department of Health. In addition to the application form, patients can give their physicians the Written Documentation of Patient’s Medical Records form. This document will serve as official documentation verifying the patient’s serious medical diagnosis.

The forms must be turned in to the patient’s county’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program in person. The county fees vary but cannot exceed $100. Patients who qualify for Medi-Cal benefits can receive a 50% discount.   

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