California’s Marijuana Laws: The Complete Breakdown

Be safe. Know your legal limits.

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

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 ounces 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.

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.

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 a 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 of jail time
  • a 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

According to the California marijuana laws, 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.



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.

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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.


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