Is Recreational Weed Legal in California?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
August 4, 2021
California Cannabis Legal
California Cannabis Legal

Weed/Marijuana is legal throughout the state of California and has been for several years.  That means, no matter if you live in places such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Anaheim, or even San Diego, The Golden states permits residents to purchase weed for recreational or medical use as long as they are at least 21 years of age.


History of Weed Laws

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassion Use Act, which was the state’s earliest version of a medical marijuana program.  It allowed patients and caregivers to possess and grow marijuana for medical use.  It acted as the first medical marijuana program throughout the country to go into law.  In 2003, Senate Bill 420 clarified and implemented the law.


On November 8 of 2016, California voted on and approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or Proposition 64, which effectively legalized the possession, purchase, sales and cultivation of marijuana among adults 21 years of age or older, thus allowing recreational marijuana to be permitted throughout the state.


Proposition 64 also gave the state the right to regulate marijuana and oversee the licensing process of dispensaries, while clarifying laws about medical marijuana with a more thorough explanation of qualifications needed.  In June of 2017, the Medicinal and Adult Use of Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act was passed, thus coming up with strict laws pertaining to dispensaries and sales to ensure a safe cannabis market for recreational and medical users.  The Bureau of Cannabis Control was also set up to oversee the cannabis farming industry within California. 


Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health developed the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch that goes further to ensure safe cannabis products that enforce laws pertaining to ingredients, packaging, and other components of the market.


Where Can a Person Legally Purchase Weed in California?

In the state of California, any individual 21 years or older can legally purchase cannabis regardless of whether or not they are a medical patient.  The state has many licensed dispensaries throughout, along with a popular home delivery program that permits dispensaries to deliver cannabis to the homes of users.  In order for a home delivery to be made, the purchaser must present a valid ID that proves that they are of age, or a medical card/proof of caregiver status if that applies.  Home delivery is regulated to ensure that products are not contaminated in transit, and to ensure that delivery persons follow cannabis possession laws as well.


There is a 35%-45% tax on marijuana products in California, and local governments can add to that tax if they so choose.  Much of this tax goes to maintaining the high regulations for which the state is known, which keeps the cannabis trade as safe as possible for individuals and protects businesses at the same time.  It’s important to note that medical patients with a valid medical card do not have to pay taxes on cannabis products. 


California is home to many licensed dispensaries throughout the state, which means that access to cannabis is quite available to residents. 


Where Can Cannabis Legally Be Used?

In Cali, it’s illegal to use cannabis in a public space, so it can only be consumed in private spaces.  It is strictly illegal to consume cannabis in a car either as a driver or passenger, or even have an open container while driving.  Cannabis use is illegal in public spaces that have acquired a state license to permit consumption.  Smoking or vaping cannabis in a non-smoking public area is prohibited.


Possession Laws

Adults can possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis, or 8 grams of concentrate.  Meanwhile, medical patients and caregivers are allowed to possess a maximum of 8 ounces, or 226.8 grams of concentrate.  Cannabis products transported in a vehicle must be sealed or in the trunk.  Adults may give but not sell 1 ounce of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate to other adults, but patients are discouraged from sharing cannabis with other medical patients.


Can Residents Grow Their Own?

It is legal to grow up to 6 plants on one’s private property, but the law strictly states that the plants must be kept out of public view.


Medical Marijuana

California has a comprehensive medical marijuana program that requires a state-issued medical ID card to authorize purchases, and caregivers can be licensed through the state to act on patients’ behalf.  Medical cards usually must be renewed each year.  Medical patients can purchase higher amounts of cannabis than recreational users, which keeps the incentive to seek out medical authorization.


Qualifying Conditions:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Persistent or severe muscle spasms
  • Seizures and other symptoms of epilepsy
  • Severe nausea
  • Any chronic or severe condition that inhibits a patient’s quality of life


Patient Qualifications:

For a patient to qualify as a medical marijuana patient, they must obtain a diagnosis of one of the above conditions from a licensed physician who confirms the diagnosis in a statement provided to the state, along with an explanation of marijuana as a suitable treatment.


How to Register for Medical Marijuana in California

To apply for a medical marijuana license, you will need a certification from a physician with a diagnosis and approval for marijuana as a treatment, which will be submitted along with the application provided online by the CDPH.  Submit the application to a county health department in your area with proof of residency and your state-issued ID.


Qualifying as a Caregiver

A primary caregiver must be at least 18 years old, and must also be responsible for the housing, health, and safety of their patient. 


Registering as a Caregiver

A patient must apply for the caregiver, by filling out the designated section of their form.


Reciprocity Laws

Individuals of legal age who are visiting the state of California can legally purchase marijuana in any dispensary as long as they have a valid ID.


Licensing Laws

Dispensaries, cultivators, processors, and lab-testing facilities must all be licensed through the state.  All products sold in California must undergo a strict testing process by a third-party to verify the validity and safety of the products.  The lab reports must be sent to the state.  In addition to testing for contaminants and other harmful compounds, the products are tested for their compound profiles.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1: When Did Weed Become Legal in California?

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in California since 2016, long before most states caught up.  Medical marijuana has been around in California for multiple decades.


#2: Is it Legal to Dab in California?

Dabbing is permitted in California.  You can find concentrates in dispensaries throughout the state, with a purchase on how much you can buy at one time.  Dabbing paraphernalia is also easy to find throughout the state.


#3: Can I Have Weed Delivered to My Home?

California has a state-regulated weed delivery program that allows residents to have marijuana delivered to their homes, with no medical card necessary as long as the individual is of legal age to possess.  Not all dispensaries provide this service, so it’s important to check before attempting to have it delivered.


#4: Can I Drive While Under the Influence of Cannabis?

It is illegal to drive if you are under the influence of cannabis in the state of California.  You cannot even have an open container in your car.  This can lead to serious legal penalties.


#5: Can I Smoke or Vape Weed in Public?

You are not permitted to consume cannabis in public and doing so in an area in which vaping and/or smoking is banned can get you into further trouble with the law.


#6: Can I Grow My Own?

Yes, in Cali you’re legally allowed to grow your own cannabis as long as it is kept out of view of the public.  You may grow up to six plants.