California Cannabis Laws

Cannabis has been a controversial substance in the United States for decades, and it remains a topic of ongoing debate in California. In recent years, the state has undergone a significant shift in cannabis policy, legalizing both medicinal and adult-use cannabis. 

Let’s explore the current state of cannabis laws in California as of 2023, including the legality of cannabis for medical and adult-use purposes, the process for obtaining a medical marijuana card, the laws surrounding possession and use of cannabis, the regulations for cannabis businesses, and the penalties for violating cannabis laws.

Can you legally consume cannabis in California?

Cannabis was first legalized for medicinal use in California in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act. In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalized the use of cannabis for recreational purposes for individuals over the age of 21. The law went into effect on January 1, 2018, and as of 2023, cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational use in California.

Where can you consume cannabis in California?

Cannabis consumption must take place in a private space. Onsite consumption is permitted inside businesses or spaces that hold a commercial cannabis consumption license. Smoking or vaping in a designated non-smoking area is an infraction. Consumption in a motor vehicle, bicycle, or open public space is not allowed.

How much cannabis can you possess in California?

Under California law, adults 21 or older can buy and possess up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of cannabis, and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate. Medical marijuana patients may possess and cultivate larger amounts of cannabis, as determined by their physician's recommendation. 

Is it legal to grow weed in California?

California residents can grow weed whenever they choose. Adults without a valid qualifying physician's recommendation are allowed to grow a maximum of six plants, regardless of maturity level, while medical marijuana patients can grow up to six mature plants or 12 immature plants.

How to get a Medical Marijuana Card

To obtain a medical marijuana card in California, patients must have a qualifying medical condition and a physician's recommendation. The qualifying conditions include cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities or, if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient's safety, physical, or mental health.

After obtaining a physician's recommendation, patients must register with the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) through the California Department of Public Health. The MMP provides a registry identification card to qualified patients, which allows them to purchase and possess cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

What are the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use in California?

The following medical conditions qualify a person for a medical marijuana card in California:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea

Any other chronic or persistent medical condition that limits the ability of the patient to conduct one or more major life activities

Penalties for Violating Cannabis Laws

Violations of California's cannabis laws can result in various penalties, depending on the severity of the offense. Possession or use of cannabis in public can result in a fine of up to $250, while driving under the influence of cannabis can result in fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment. Unlicensed cannabis businesses can be fined or shut down, and those who sell cannabis to minors or engage in other illegal activities can face criminal charges.

Spark Notes

As of 2023, California's cannabis laws are among the most lenient in the United States. Cannabis is a controversial substance in the US, but California has legalized it for medical and adult use. This means that people can use cannabis legally for medical purposes, like treating pain, and for recreational purposes, as long as they're over 21 years old. 

Adults can buy and possess a certain amount of cannabis, and medical marijuana patients can grow and purchase larger amounts of cannabis. Cannabis businesses must get a license and follow strict rules for security, packaging, labeling, and testing of their products. 

Breaking the laws for cannabis use, possession, or sale can result in penalties, fines, license suspension or revocation, and even imprisonment.