Updated June 2023.
Adult use of cannabis is legal in California under Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), approved by the voters on November 8, 2016. In general, AUMA allows adults 21 and over to possess, privately use, and give away up to one ounce of cannabis, and to cultivate no more than six plants for personal use at their residence. It also legalizes the commercial sale, distribution and production of cannabis for adult use at state-licensed facilities. Local city and county governments can restrict or ban cannabis businesses in their jurisdiction.
The Department of Cannabis Control is in charge of licensing and regulating retail sales, distribution, and testing, as well as cultivation and manufacturing. Prior approval by local city or county governments is required for all state-licensed facilities. Further info on state regulations may be found at the California Cannabis Portal (DCC).
Legal Adult-Use Activities
Under AUMA it is LEGAL for any adult 21 or over to:
(1) Possess, process, transport, purchase, obtain, or give away to persons 21 or older, not more than one ounce of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis [HSC 11362.1(a)(1) and (2)].
(2) Cultivate, possess, plant, harvest, dry or process not more than six live plants and possess the produce of the plants [HSC 11362.1(a)(3)
(a) Any living plants or cannabis in excess of one ounce must be stored in the person’s private residential property, in a locked space, and not visible from a public place [HSC 11362.2].
(b) No more than six plants are planted at any one residence at one time. Exceptions may be allowed for medical users in some cities and counties. (See Medical Rights section.)
(c) Local governments may impose reasonable restrictions on cultivation, but may not forbid cultivation indoors in a residence or accessory structure that is fully enclosed and secure. Locals are free to prohibit outdoor cultivation altogether until such time as adult use is made legal under federal law. [HSC 11362.2(b)].
Violation of restrictions on personal use cultivation is a $250 infraction for six plants or less [HSC 11362.4(e)].
Prop. 64 protected the rights of employers to have policies forbidding use of cannabis by employees. Cal NORML successfully sponsored a bill in 2022 that will disallow employment discrimination based on urine or hair testing for inactive THC metabolites. That law will take effect on January 1, 2024.
Employees may not possess or be impaired by cannabis on the job, and may be subject to an oral swab test. Federal employees and those in the construction trades are not protected by the law.
Exceptions: Consumption by passengers may be permitted in commercial vehicles specifically licensed for such purposes without children present. Qualified Prop 215 patients carrying an ID card or recommendation may possess cannabis in a container that is closed or resealed [VC 23222].
It is also unlawful to use cannabis while in a car under Vehicle Code 23220 and 23221 even if you are a passenger. This is also true for cannabis edibles.
Under AUMA, Cannabis users may NOT [HSC 11362.3 – 11362.4]:
• Smoke, vaporize or ingest cannabis or cannabis products in any public place ($100 infraction).
Exception: local governments may permit on-site consumption at state-licensed premises in their jurisdiction [BPC 26200(g)]. Events can also obtain licenses for cannabis consumption.
• Smoke or vaporize cannabis in any non-smoking area, or within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or youth center while children are present, except privately at a residence. ($250 infraction)
• Possess or use cannabis on the grounds of a school, day care or youth center while children are present. ($100 fine).
• Manufacture concentrated cannabis with a volatile solvent (except for state-licensed manufacturers). Volatile solvents include explosive chemicals like butane but not ethyl alcohol.
• Consume cannabis or possess an “open container” of cannabis while driving or riding as a passenger in any motor vehicle, boat, or airplane ($250 fine).
Unlike with alcohol, the courts have held (People v. Johnson, 50 Cal.App.5th 620, 632 (2020); People v. Shumake, 45 Cal.App.5th Supp. 1, 6 (2019)) that a resealed container, such as a zip lock that is zipped or a baggie with the top twisted and knotted, or with a twisty on it, is not an “open container.” There is no requirement a container be from a commercial cannabis business.
Exception: Qualified Prop 215 patients carrying an ID card or recommendation may possess cannabis in a container that is closed or resealed [VC 23222].
It is also unlawful to use cannabis while in a car under Vehicle Code 23220 & 23221 even if you are a passenger. This is also true for cannabis edibles.
Exception: Consumption by passengers may be permitted in commercial vehicles specifically licensed for such purposes without children present.
AUMA does not repeal, affect or preempt:
• The rights of employers to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace, or to have policies forbidding use of cannabis by employees (This will be changed in 2024; see “Employment Rights” above.)
• The ability of landlords and other private parties from prohibiting or restricting use of cannabis on their privately owned property
• The ability of government agencies to prohibit or restrict use of cannabis within a building they own or occupy
Rights of Prop. 215 Medical Users
California’s medical cannabis laws under Proposition 215 remain in effect under AUMA. Prop 215 gives patients and their designated primary caregivers the right to possess and cultivate cannabis for their personal medical needs given the recommendation or approval of a California-licensed physician.
Because there is no set limit on the amount patients may possess or cultivate, the argument can be made that patients may legally possess more than the one ounce and six plants allowed under AUMA if their medical needs require. Patients who do so should exercise discretion by keeping their stash at home and not carrying more than one ounce in public.
There is no age limit on medical use. Minors under age 18 need permission from their parents or guardians to use medical cannabis. Young adults age 18-20 are allowed to visit state-licensed medical dispensaries, but not adult-use ones.
Patients who have state medical cannabis ID cards are exempt from the sales tax on medical cannabis and cannabis products [BPC 34011(g)]. ID cards are voluntary and are issued by county health departments.
The parental rights of qualified Prop 215 patients are protected by AUMA in family and juvenile court proceedings [HSC 11362.84].
A law passed in 2022 AB 2595, requires CPS to issue guidance stating that a parent’s use or possession of cannabis is treated in the same manner as their use or possession of alcohol and legally prescribed medication. [WIC Section 328.2]
A 2022 Cal NORML-sponsored law (AB 1954; BPC 2228.5) protects the right of patients to medical treatment (e.g. pain medicine prescriptions) if they use medical cannabis. “Ryan’s Law,” [H&SC 1649] protects the right of terminally ill patients to use non-inhaled cannabis in hospital and hospice settings; a pending bill (SB 302) would extend those protections to seniors in chronic pain.
The California Supreme Court ruled in People v. Kelly (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1008 that there can be no set limit in state law on the amount of cannabis patients may cultivate, however local ordinances tend to restrict all cultivation to six plants per parcel.
It is no longer legal for multiple patients to grow “collective gardens,” as was allowed under California’s medical marijuana law before Prop. 64. Prop. 64 added Section 26033 to the Business and Professions Code, protecting patients and primary caregivers who cultivate an unspecified amount for themselves or no more than five patients, if they receive compensation only under Subdivision (c) of Section 11362.765 of the Health and Safety Code.
Under Prop 215, patients are still entitled to grow and possess whatever amount of marijuana is consistent with their medical need, though this is subject to local limits and land-use restrictions, including bans. Locals may not ban 6-plant-per-parcel gardens under Prop. 64, though they may “reasonably regulate” them, including banning outdoor cultivation. Doctors’ notes stating that patients can grow 99 (or any other number) of plants are not legally valid, unless it can be proved in court that a patient required that amount.
An appellate court decision, Kirby v. County of Fresno found that while a local government can regulate land use, the cultivation of medical marijuana cannot be criminalized by local ordinance.
How Can I Obtain Cannabis Legally?
Adults 21 and over and medical users or caregivers can buy cannabis at licensed retail dispensaries or delivery services. A list of licensed retailers can be found at: https://www.canorml.org/cannabis-resource-directory/dispensaries-and-delivery/ or https://search.cannabis.ca.gov/retailers.
It is legal for any adult to buy or receive an ounce of cannabis from another, and to give away up to one ounce without compensation to other adults. Adults can also grow up to six plants at their residence and legally posses the results of their gardens at their homes.
All retail sales of cannabis are subject to an additional 15% state excise tax. Retail sales of cannabis are also subject to the standard state sales and use tax of 7.5% – 9.25%.
Exception: Medical users with a state medical cannabis ID card are exempt from the sales and use tax.
Many local governments assess additional taxes on cannabis businesses, ranging as high as 10-20% of total revenues. All of these high taxes have made it difficult for the legal cannabis industry to gain a foothold in California. Cal NORML supports tax reform for cannabis businesses.
Criminal Penalties for Cannabis Offenses
Juvenile offenders: In general, AUMA exempts juveniles under 18 from criminal fines and imprisonment for cannabis offenses.Instead, they are sentenced to community service, drug education or counseling.
Adult offenders: Most offenses for adults 18 and over are punished either as non-arrestable infractions subject to a fine, or as criminal misdemeanors. For misdemeanors, the maximum sentence is normally a $500 fine and/or six months in jail. Felony enhancements may be charged in aggravated circumstances such as repeat or violent prior offenses, environmental offenses, involvement of minors, etc. Also, prosecutors can charge violators with felony conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor if more than one person is involved in the crime.
• Illegal Possession (HSC 11357)
Underage possession of one ounce or less by persons 18-21 is a $100 infraction. (For juveniles <18, no fine but community service and/or drug counseling)
Illegal possession of more than one ounce (or 8 grams of concentrates) is a misdemeanor.
Possession on the grounds of a grade school of one ounce or less during school hours is a $250 infraction for first offense; subsequent offenses are misdemeanors punishable by maximum 10 days in jail and $500 fine.
• Illegal Cultivation (HSC 11358)
Underage cultivation of six plants or less by persons 18-21 is a $100 infraction.
Illegal cultivation, harvesting, drying, or processing of more than six plants is a misdemeanor.
Felony enhancements allowed for:
– persons with two or more prior convictions for illegal cultivation,
– offenders with two prior violent felony “strikes”
and registered sex offenders
– violation of specified environmental statutes regarding illegal diversion or discharge of water, hazardous waste, endangered species, etc.
• Possession With Intent to Sell (HSC 11359)
Possession of cannabis for illegal sale is a misdemeanor.
Felony enhancements allowed for:
-3rd time offenders
-offenders with two prior violent felony “strikes”
and registered sex offenders
-knowing sale to minors <18; or
-employing persons <21 to help sell, cultivate, transport, etc.
• Illegal sale, import, transport, or distribution (HSC 11360)
Illegal selling, furnishing, administering, giving away, transporting for sale or importing into the state is a misdemeanor.
Felony enhancements allowed for:
– importing into state or transporting for sale out of state more than one ounce of cannabis or 4 grams of concentrate
– 3rd time offenders
– offenders with two prior violent felony “strikes”
and registered sex offenders
-knowingly providing to minors <18
• Employing or providing to minors (HSC 11361)
This statute was not de-felonized by Prop 64. Employing a minor in cannabis sales or distribution, and selling or furnishing cannabis to a minor are felonies punishable by prison sentences of three years or more.
Clearing Records of Prior Cannabis Convictions
Prop 64 eliminated or downgraded most cannabis offenses from felonies or misdemeanors to misdemeanors or infractions. Persons who have a prior conviction for an offense that would have received a lesser or no penalty had Prop. 64 been in effect may petition the court for resentencing or dismissal and have their records changed accordingly. Most persons with felony records for marijuana offenses from before November 2016 can have their felonies cleared under this provision. Forms to file for Prop 64 resentencing are available from the California Judicial Council. Read more.
AB 1793 (Bonta), to automatically expunge or resentence certain past marijuana crimes without requiring the filing of a petition, passed and was signed into law in 2018, and is codified as CA Health & Safety Code 11361.9. Read more.
Driving under the influence
It is unlawful to drive while under the influence of marijuana or alcohol or any other drug by Vehicle Code 23152. “Under the influence” is not explicitly defined in the statute, but is interpreted to imply some degree of impairment. Therefore the mere fact of having taken a toke of marijuana does not necessarily mean one is DUI. For evidence of impairment, officers may administer a field sobriety test. Arrestees may also be required to submit to a blood or urine test under Vehicle Code 23612 or else forfeit their licenses.
Since marijuana is detectable for much longer periods in urine than in blood (several days vs. several hours), a positive urine test constitutes much weaker proof of recent use and impairment than a positive blood test. In some jurisdictions, police are testing motorists with oral swab tests. Under current law, police cannot compel you to take a swab test like they can a blood or urine test. Oral swab tests can detect marijuana for a couple of hours after occasional use or up to 36 hours in chronic users.
Unlike federal law, California law requires a conviction for forfeiture of property involved in a drug crime. Also unlike federal law, state law does not permit forfeiture of personal real estate for marijuana cultivation. Vehicles may be forfeited only if 10 pounds or more of marijuana is involved. Health and Safety Code 11470. However, state authorities can choose to turn major violators over to federal prosecutors, in which case they may share in federal forfeiture proceeds.
AUMA does not apply on federal property. Possession in national parklands including Golden Gate Recreation Area is illegal. Marijuana, including both THC and CBD, remains an illegal Schedule One substance under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. Federal charges are typically brought only in large cases where commercial distribution is suspected (e.g., cultivation of several hundred plants), or where the government stands to gain substantial assets through forfeiture.Text of the Controlled Substances Act.
CA Food & Agriculture Code
AUMA authorizes the production of industrial hemp under regulations to be promulgated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Hemp is not taxed, regulated or licensed by the Bureau of Cannabis Control like cannabis intended for human consumption. Hemp growers are required to register with their local county agricultural commission, but no procedures for doing so have been established as of Dec 2017.
Licensing is required for all phases of the cannabis industry including cultivation, testing, manufacture, distribution, transport and retail sales. All cannabis products must be tested by a state-licensed lab and pass though the hands of state-licensed distributors, who also collect taxes on cultivation and retail sales. The following license types are established under state law (BPC 26050):
Type I “Specialty outdoor”- no artificial lighting, cultivated area less than 5,000 sq ft canopy or 50 plants on noncontiguous plots
Tupe 1A “Specialty indoor” –
indoor cultivation using exclusively artificial lighting between 501 and 5,000 sq ft.
Type 1 B “Specialty mixed-light” – combination of natural and artificial lighting between 2,501 and 5,000 sq ft.
Type 1 C “Specialty cottage” – 2,500 sq ft or less mixed light or up to 25 mature plants outdoors or 500 sq ft indoor cultivation
Type 2 “Small Outdoor” – no artificial lighting, 5,001 -10,000 sq ft
Type 2A “Small indoor – exclusively artificial lighting, 5,001-10,000 sq ft
Type 2B “Small mixed-light” 5,001-10,000 sq
Type 3 “Medium Outdoor” 10,001 sq ft – one acre (=43,560 sq ft)*
Type 3A “Medium Indoor” 10,001 – 22,000 sq ft.*
Type 3B “Medium Mixed-Light” 10,001 – 22,000 sq ft.*
*The Dept of Food and Agriculture shall limit the number of type 3 licenses
Type 4 “Nursery” for cultivation
Type 5 “Large Outdoor” cultivation over one acre**
Type 5A “Large Indoor” over 22,000 sq ft.**
Type 5B “Large Mixed-light” over 22,000 sq ft.**
** No type 5, 5A, 5 B licenses may be issued before Jan 1, 2023.
Type 6 – “Manufacturer 1” not using volatile solvents
Type 7 – “Manufacturer 2” using volatile solvents
Type 8 – Testing laboratory. May not hold any other kind of licenses.
Type 10 – Retailer
Type 11 – Distributor – responsible for collecting taxes, testing, and transporting to retailers. Retailers must purchase cannabis through a distributor.
Type 11 – Distributor Transport Only (CA Code of Regulations Section 5014)
Type 12 – Microbusiness –
Combination license to cultivate < 10,000 sq ft, manufacture (Type 6 only), distribute, and retail.
Event Organizer License (CA Code of Regulations Section 5600).
Persons may hold any combination of licenses, except for testing labs and Type 5 large cultivators, which can hold no other license types.
Application and license fees are established in the CA Code of Regulations by the responsible agencies.
List of CA Marijuana Laws Pursuant to Prop 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act)
HSC 11018: Marijuana defined
HSC 11357: Possession of marijuana
Planting, Harvesting or Processing [Cultivation]
Possession for Sale
HSC 11360: Unlawful Transportation, Importation, Sale or Gift
HSC 11361: Employing minors or giving to minors 14 or under.
HSC 11361.5, 11361.7 and 11361.8 Destruction of Arrest and Conviction Records
HSC 11362.1 Lawful activities for adult users under Prop. 64
HSC 11362.2 Restrictions on personal use cultivation
HSC 11362.3 and 11362.4 Restrictions on use in public places, at schools & while driving, and manufacture using volatile solvents.
HSC 11362.45 Restrictions regarding minors, employee rights, use on private property
VC 23152(f-g) and 23162 DUI – Driving under the influence
VC 23220 & 23221 Using cannabis in a vehicle
VC 23222(b) Driving/riding with open container
CA Medical Marijuana Laws Pursuant to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215)
HSC 11362.5 Prop 215 – Text of Prop. 215 Initiative (can’t be amended by legislature)
HSC 11362.7 – 11362.85 CA Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420)
– implementing legislation re: state ID card program, caregivers and collectives
HSC 11362.9 California Marijuana Research Program
BPC 2525 – 2525.5 Recommending medical cannabis – Physician conflicts of interest and advertising
Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act
Business & Professions Code, Diviison 10, Sec. 26000-26231.2
Licensing rules for medical & adult-use cannabis businesses under regulations effective Jan 1, 2018.
Revenue & Tax Code Division 2, Part 14.5 Sec. 34010-34021.5
Applicable to both adult use and medical cannabis effective Jan 1, 2018. Proceeds allocated to California Marijuana Tax Fund and disbursed to specified programs.
WC 13276 Water discharge requirements
FGC 12025-12029 – Fish and Game code Fines & Penalties
Labor Code 147.6 – Study on second-hand smoke exposure by employees
California Law search full text of codes: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov