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Is Marijuana Legal in California?

For decades, California has led the charge to legalize marijuana. The Compassionate Use Act passed in 1996, making California the first state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana and its subsequent sales. Now, with the recent passage of Proposition 64 in California’s 2016 election, marijuana can be purchased recreationally by any person over the age of 21 in the state.

Navigating the complexities of California weed laws, regarding the purchase and consumption of THC in the state is tricky. Knowing the do’s and don’ts of cannabis in your local area can help keep you safe and out of jail as you consume responsibly.

Buying Marijuana in California 

Beginning in 2018, licenses were distributed to cultivators and business locations to begin growing and selling marijuana in the state. On January 1st 2018, retail locations opened their doors and began selling legal marijuana for non-medical use to adults over the age of 21. Despite state-wide legalization, Proposition 64 allows each city within the state to set its own laws regarding the sale of marijuana. Currently, only about 1/3 of cities in California have laws allowing the sale of marijuana (although this may soon change with Assembly Bill 1356).

Buying Marijuana at a Recreational Dispensary 

Between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM (PST), any individual over the age of 21 may enter a dispensary and purchase recreational marijuana. If you are between the ages of 18 and 21, you may enter a medicinal dispensary but only after receiving a valid physician’s recommendation. A valid photo-I.D. is needed for anyone to enter into a retail location selling marijuana. Upon entering a dispensary, you may buy up to 1 ounce (28.4 grams) of cannabis flower per day. If you are looking to buy cannabis concentrates, a limit of 8 grams per day is imposed.

With so many city-specific laws in place, it may seem daunting trying to find a local dispensary. However, finding a recreational marijuana dispensary is easier than ever with helpful online search directories to aid in your search and match you with the location that meet your needs.

Retail Store Hours in California

Retail marijuana stores in California are allowed to operate from 6am to 10pm (PST) under state law. It’s important to note that operating hours are also under the jurisdiction of local government regulations, meaning that cities have the power to reduce the operating hours if they choose. Therefore, a dispensary one one side of town could have vastly different hours than a shop only a few miles apart. Checking the hours online is a great way to avoid driving across town to a closed store.

Using a Marijuana Delivery Service 

Marijuana deliveries are available for medical and recreational marijuana, both through independent delivery businesses, as well as dispensaries which can operate this type of business under the same name. Similar to retail locations, those using a marijuana delivery service in California must provide valid proof of identification. A buyer must be at a physical address to have marijuana delivered to them and that address cannot be on either publicly owned land or a youth center (no schools or daycares). A delivery service can only provide an individual with 1 ounce of cannabis flower or 8 grams of marijuana concentrate per day. 

Available Marijuana Products in California 

Some of the finest marijuana flower and products in the nation can be found in the state of California. The Golden State has long been known as a leader in the cultivation of marijuana, which you will notice on your first visit to any dispensary. At most retail locations, you will find an array of various products from superb, THC-laden flower to marijuana-infused body lotions. A product to fit your individual needs will be found at almost any dispensaries but checking the dispensary’s menu online will help save you time and gas money as search for the perfect California cannabis product.

How Much Marijuana Can You Buy in California?

If you are buying marijuana recreationally, you may purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower or 8 grams of concentrates per day. Medical patients are allotted double the amount per day, at a limit of 2 ounces per day.

Returning Marijuana 

After purchasing marijuana from a licensed retailer or delivery service, it is completely within the confines of the law to return the product. However, like any business, return policies will be specific to each retailer so check with the establishment before buying. 

Marijuana Taxes in California 

Taxes on Recreational Marijuana in California 

If you are legally purchasing marijuana in California, be ready to pay some hefty taxes. California marijuana sales are subject to state and local sales tax, a cannabis business tax and a large marijuana excise tax. Sales tax in the state can be as high as 10.25% in some cities, as local governments are allowed to add up to 3% onto the 7.25% minimum. There is an additional 15% marijuana excise tax added onto the state sales tax for any marijuana sale. Lastly, any city or local government can tack on a ‘marijuana business tax’ which can range from 5-15%. In total, recreational marijuana can be taxed up to 40%. California is currently considering dropping the excise tax from 15% to 11% but don’t hold your breath for lower taxes anytime in the immediate future.

Taxes on Medical Marijuana in California

While still subject to some taxes, medical marijuana does offer some relief to the sky-high taxes on recreational marijuana. Medical patients in the state are still forced to pay the 15% excise tax on marijuana but are exempt for any state sales tax. On top of this, medical patients must also pay any local sales tax employed by the city where they are located. 

Possession of Marijuana

Unlike purchasing marijuana, possession laws in California do not change by city. Any adult over the age of 21 may carry with them up to 1 ounce (28.4 grams) of cannabis flower or up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrates. This is also the daily allotment allowed for purchase every day, so as long as your aren’t stocking up multiple days’ worth of acquisitions, you have nothing to worry about. Any person over the age of 21 is allowed to grow up to 6 live cannabis plants within the confines of their personal residence. While you are legally allowed to carry and grow marijuana, do not bring any marijuana product onto a school campus, a daycare, or a youth center. Doing so would be a violation of Proposition 64, and is against the law. 

Using Marijuana in California 

If you’re visiting from out of state, it can be scary trying to find a place to use your newly purchased marijuana products. Wherever you choose, make sure the selected area is within the confines of the law to guarantee that your California experience doesn’t come to a swift end. To that point,  there’s a long list of places where you can’t consume marijuana versus the places where you can. The following list overviews the areas that allow, and do not allow the consumption of marijuana in the state:

Areas that DO allow the consumption of marijuana:

  • Within a private residence 
  • Outside a private residence (backyard), as long as it is out of the view of the public
  • A licensed marijuana consumption facility 

Areas that DO NOT allow the use of marijuana:

  • In your car
  • Any public place 
  • Any location where tobacco consumption is prohibited 
  • 1,000 feet away from a child center, such as a school, daycare or youth center (possession is also illegal here)

California Marijuana on Federal Land 

While cannabis has been legalized across the state of California, it has not yet been legalized on the federal level. For this reason you cannot carry or use any marijuana product while on federal land including Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and any other areas under federal regulation.

Medical Marijuana in California 

California was a pioneer in the movement to legalize medical marijuana after becoming the first state in the US to do so in 1996. Under state law, individuals suffering from a medical condition may obtain a physician's recommendation to legally purchase medical marijuana in the state. 

Despite the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, obtaining or renewing a medical marijuana card still comes with benefits. For one, medical patients are exempt from the 6.25% state sales tax on cannabis, slightly reducing the immense tax levied on marijuana in California. Medical marijuana patients are able to possess larger quantities of marijuana on their person at any time, which can be helpful if you often make large purchases. If you have a medical card, you are able to carry up to 8 ounces of flower at a time with some cities allowing even larger quantities. If you feel that 8 ounces does not meet your needs, your doctor can also give you the legal ability to carry as much as needed.

Out-of-State Medical Cards

Unfortunately, California is not one of the few states who accepts reciprocity as it relates to out-of-state medical cards. Any medical patient over the age of 21 is free to purchase recreational marijuana at any licensed dispensary they choose, although they will still pay the taxes imposed on recreational weed. 

How to Transport Marijuana in California  

Transporting Marijuana in California

Any person over the age of 21 can drive with up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrates in their car, as long as the product is stored out of the driver’s reach. If carrying a combination of different marijuana products with you, the total weight cannot exceed 1 ounce. Ensure that the marijuana product is in a sealed, child-proof container and stored securely in the rear of the vehicle. Driving with an ‘open-container’ in your vehicle will carry consequences similar to those of driving with an open beer in your car. Smoking within a vehicle, even while the vehicle is not being operated, is against the law in California. 

Driving While Under the Influence of Marijuana 

While Proposition 64 eased many of California’s marijuana laws, the specific laws regarding driving while under the influence of marijuana did not. Being found guilty of driving under the influence of cannabis while operating a motor vehicle carries substantial fines and penalties in the state.  A person who is found guilty can face up to 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine (plus court fees) and must complete a DUI program. Consuming marijuana responsibly will keep your legal California cannabis experience worry-free. If you are unsure if you should drive, utilize one of the state’s many ride-sharing apps. 

Driving Across State Lines with Marijuana 

Marijuana has been legalized in several states along the West Coast but it is still federally illegal. Crossing state lines puts you into federal jurisdiction, therefore it’s illegal to bring any cannabis with on any state-to-state travel, even if you’re going to a state that has legalized cannabis. If you’re traveling my plane, it’s smart not to bring any marijuana products with you as many airports have strict rules against marijuana possession.

Growing Marijuana in California 

Residents of California are able to have up to 6 live marijuana plants at a time. A maximum of 6 plants per household is imposed, even if several adults reside in the same location. The plants must be grown in a locked space out of the public view and the marijuana harvested from the plants must be stored in a safe, locked space within your private residence. 

While state law permits growing within one’s private residence, landlords and property managers may have their own rules regarding marijuana cultivation. Checking your lease agreement before beginning the growing process will ensure that you stay out of trouble while going the home-grown route. Those wishing to grow more plants for commercial purposes, must first apply with the state for a license.