California Cannabis Laws (What You Need To Know)

In California, Cannabis is completely legal for adults thanks to Prop.64 – AUMA (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act), which was voted in on November 8, 2016.

AUMA has made it so adults who are over the age of 21 are able to legally possess as well as privately use cannabis. They are able to own one ounce and give away marijuana as well. 

California Cannabis Laws (What You Need To Know)

It is also legally possible to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants to be used privately on personal property. This AUMA also made it so the commercial sale, and the distribution of marijuana were legalized at facilities that are state licensed.

In spite of this, local cities and counties can adjust rules, and make restrictions on cannabis use within areas of their jurisdiction, so wherever you are visiting, make sure that you are checking the laws.

It is the job of the Department of Cannabis Control to license, as well as regulate the sales, testing, and distribution of marijuana, as well as the process which has gone into its cultivation and its manufacturing.

All facilities which have gotten state licensing have to have approval from the city and the county governments.

If you want to visit California, but need to know what the restrictions and rules are surrounding the possession and use of marijuana, keep reading to get further details.

Legal Adult-Use Activities

Due to AUMA it is legal for someone over the age of 21 to possess, process, transport, buy or obtain, or to give away, up to an ounce of cannabis or alternatively 8 grams of concentrated cannabis.

It is also legal to cultivate, plant, harvest, and then dry and process, no more than 6 live marijuana plants at one time.

However, there are caveats to this, if you have a living cannabis plant, or just cannabis, in one property, it will need to be out of view from a public area. You can not have more than 6 plants planted in your home at one time, with the exception being for some medical users in some cities.

There are also the aforementioned restrictions that can be put in place by local governments which are usually focused on cultivation however these cannot restrict cultivation from being done in an indoors and enclosed environment.

What Activities Are Prohibited?

There are still plenty of restrictions in place even under AUMA, these include not being able to:

  • Smoke, ingest, or vape cannabis in a public space, there are some exceptions to this on some state-owned or licensed premises, but these will need to get their own specific license for this.
  • You cannot smoke or vape in any area which is designated for not smoking. This includes areas that are within 1000 feet of a daycare, youth center, or school, or anywhere where children are present unless it is within a privately owned area.
  • You cannot possess cannabis while on school grounds, or a similar youth center, while children are there.
  • It is illegal to manufacture your cannabis if there is a volatile solvent being used, for example, explosive chemicals, with a common one being butane.
  • You cannot consume cannabis or have a container of cannabis open while you are driving, or while you are riding in a vehicle. There are some exemptions for riders in specific situations, but these are rare and depend on medical conditions.

What Other Restrictions Are There?

California Cannabis Laws (What You Need To Know)

There are some other restrictions which are worth mentioning that have not been affected by AUMA being:

  • The right for employers to keep a space alcohol or drug free, as well as stop employees from possessing cannabis.
  • Landlords are still able to restrict how cannabis is used on their privately owned property.
  • Similarly, government agencies can restrict how cannabis is used on properties they regulate.

Rights Of Medical Users

There are specific laws relating to the medical use of cannabis that are under prop. 215 which is a separate part of AUMA, this designates specific rights to those purchasing marijuana for medical use, some of these rules include:

  • There is no set limit on how many marijuana plants can be owned or cultivated for medical use, but this should be done under the discretion and only an ounce should still be carried, this is also for private use.
  • Medical marijuana does not have an age limit, but those under the age of 18 will need parental permission, and if you are 20 or under you can not use adult-only dispensaries.
  • If you have a medical cannabis ID card you will be exempt from sales tax.

There are other restrictions in place which get more specific, so if you are looking for medical marijuana in California, make sure you know all the rights and restrictions you specifically have.

How To Legally Obtain Cannabis?

If you are over the age of 21, you or your caregiver if you are using medicinally can get cannabis from any retailers, dispensaries, or delivery services if they are state licensed. There are specific websites that will list all of the options and will help you find the one closest to you.

You can legally give away marijuana to other adults if you do not receive payment for hits.

Cannabis Taxes

Sales of cannabis have a 15% state excise tax, and sales of cannabis will also still get the standard tax between 7.5 and 9.25%. Some local governments will also have extra taxes on this, so make sure to be aware when you are purchasing marijuana.


There are plenty of specific rules when it comes to using cannabis in California, and the main thing to take away from this is to ensure that you are not carrying more than an ounce on you, not planting too much, and ensuring that you are checking if there are any local restrictions.

California is a relatively marijuana friendly state, but due to its size, plenty of different areas have different attitudes.

David Barton
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