You may be curious about marijuana (also called cannabis, pot, weed and a variety of colorful nicknames), now that it’s become legal for recreational use here in the state of California. We want to be sure our visitors understand the new policies when they visit San Francisco. Please observe the following rules and regulations:
- You must be 21 or older to have, purchase or use recreational cannabis. This includes smoking, vaping and eating cannabis-infused products.
- You may possess 28.5 grams of cannabis plant material (about an ounce) and 8 grams of concentrated cannabis.
- It is illegal to give or sell retail cannabis to minors.
- It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.
- It is illegal to consume, smoke, eat or vape cannabis in public. It is illegal to open a package containing cannabis or any cannabis products in public. This includes but is not limited to parks and sidewalks, business and residential areas.
- It is also illegal to consume cannabis in other locations where smoking is illegal, including bars, restaurants, buildings open to the public, places of employment and areas within 15 feet of doors and ventilation openings.
- Even though it is legal under California law, you cannot consume or possess cannabis on federal lands such as national parks, even if the park is in California. Among the areas that are federal lands in the San Francisco Bay Area are the Presidio, Alcatraz Island, the Marin Headlands and Ocean Beach.
- You can consume cannabis on private property, but property owners and landlords may ban the use and possession of cannabis on their properties.
- It is illegal to take your cannabis across state lines, even if you are traveling to another state where cannabis is legal.
- Only state licensed establishments may sell retail cannabis products.
Is weed legal in California?
The short answer is yes. Adults 21 and over can legally consume weed for medical or recreational purposes.
California voters passed Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996. Proposition 215 allowed patients and caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical use. It was the first medical marijuana ballot initiative in the U.S. to pass at the state level. Senate Bill 420, notable for its number, clarified the mandate and implementation of Proposition 215 in 2003.
California voters passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or Proposition 64, on November 8, 2016. It established sales and cultivation taxes and legalized the sale, possession, growing, and consumption of cannabis for adults 21 and older for non-medical purposes.
The legislature addressed some of the problems Prop 64 inadvertently caused when it passed the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) in June 2017. It went into effect on January 1, 2018, simplifying licensing requirements and clarifying medical marijuana rules. It also set up a single regulatory entity to oversee both medical and recreational cannabis operations in the state: the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). It also gave some oversight powers to the state’s agriculture and public health departments.
MAUCRSA established all of the regulatory laws and procedures for commercial medical and adult-use cannabis in California. It granted the Bureau of Cannabis Control primary oversight and licensing powers for the medical and recreational markets, though it has help from two other agencies.
The California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch regulates commercial cannabis manufacturing to assure safe production and contaminant-free cannabis with packaging that meets state standards. The California Department of Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing (CAL) division licenses and regulates cultivators and runs the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system.
Commercial Marijuana Activity
The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act provides the general framework for the regulation of commercial cannabis activity in California. This law requires anyone engaged in commercial cannabis activity to be licensed, and allows local governments to control what activities are permitted in their jurisdiction. As the lead agency in developing regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis in California, the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) is responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses. The BCC provides an online licensing system where people can apply for a license, search for a license, or file a complaint. While the new law requires medical marijuana dispensaries to obtain a new license, it generally leaves the existing medical marijuana laws intact. One change to medical marijuana laws is that certain medical marijuana sales are exempt from sales and use tax.
California Marijuana Laws Overview
The basics of California marijuana laws are highlighted in the table below.
|Statute(s)||Business & Professions Code Sections 26000, et seq.Health & Safety Code Sections 11000, et seq.; 11357, et seq.; 11362.7, et seq.|
|Possession||Those 21 and over may possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis, or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. It’s an infraction for those under 21.Those 18 and over who possess more than 28.5 grams of cannabis, or more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis may by imprisoned in county jail for up to 6 months and/or fined up to $500.|
|Sale||Sale by someone who does not possess a license to sell cannabis is a misdemeanor, which can result in up to 6 months in jail and/or fines up to $500.A person who engages in commercial cannabis activity without a license will be subject to civil penalties of up to three times the amount of the license fee for each violation, with each day of operation constituting a separate violation.|
|Additional Limitations||There are additional limitations to smoking and possessing marijuana even if a person is over 21. The limitations include (but are not limited to) smoking or ingesting cannabis in public, (except in accordance with section 26200 of the Business & Professions Code), smoking/ingesting while operating a vehicle (unless the cannabis was sealed, or the person carrying it has a physician’s recommendation), and possessing an open container while operating or riding as a passenger in a vehicle.|
California qualifying conditions for medical marijuana
Cannabis is legal for adult use in California, but to get qualified as a medical patient you must have a qualifying condition, which include:
- Chronic Pain
- HIV or AIDS
- Persistent Muscle Spasms
- Severe Nausea
- Any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been “deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician”
For a complete list of qualifying conditions and guidelines, please refer to California Proposition 215, with revised Senate Bill 420
How to get a medical marijuana card in California
Getting a medical cannabis card in California is pretty easy. There are many doctors in the state who offer recommendations.
- To get started, find a doctor and make an appointment. You can even find doctors who will see you online.
- At your appointment, let your doctor know about the medical issues you would like to treat with cannabis. If they agree you would benefit from cannabis, they will issue you a medical recommendation letter that day and a patient ID code that registers you with the California Medical Marjiuana Program.
- Once you have your letter, you can enter medical cannabis dispensaries and make purchases.
- Optionally, you can also apply for a county-issued medical marijuana identification card, which allows law enforcement agents to identify you as a medical cannabis patient.
Does California accept out-of-state medical cards?
No. California does not accept out-of-state medical cards. Still, since recreational marijuana is legal in the state, out-of-state visitors can get weed during their stay.
When does my California medical card expire?
Both medical cannabis recommendations in California and the medical marijuana identification card expire after one year. Once expired, patients need to renew these in order to continue being considered a medical patient and to be allowed higher amounts of cannabis.
California marijuana growing laws
Adults over the age of 21 may cultivate up to six plants per residency. Growing beyond that limit can result in a misdemeanor charge, up to 6 months in jail, and up to $500 in fees.
Medical cannabis patients or their caregivers can also cultivate up to six living cannabis plants. In addition, if they require more plants and it is recommended by their physician, they may grow more plants in accordance with their medical needs.
Still, local ordinances can limit or ban medical cultivation.
California public consumption laws
While consuming cannabis is legal in California, it is unlawful for any person to engage in the use of marijuana items in a public place.
A violation of this subsection is a Class B violation, the penalty for which is a fine. Other penalties may occur, but not imprisonment.
The maximum fine for a violation committed by an individual is $1,000 for a Class B violation.