Is Weed Legal in California?

Yes, weed is legal in California for adults 21 and older and for medical patients 18 and older. Under current California marijuana laws, adults can grow up to six plants at home. Additionally, the state is establishing a trail-blazing social consumption model in which licensed companies and events can have cannabis consumption onsite.

Legislation History

California voters passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or Proposition 64, on Nov. 8, 2016, legalizing recreational marijuana across the state. The historic measure permitted the sale and consumption of cannabis for adults 21 and older, and established sales and cultivation taxes. However, while Proposition 64 technically legalized marijuana in California, regulation is still left up to localities and weed might not be widely available in certain regions of the state.


In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Proposition 215 allowed patients and caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical use. Proposition 215 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. The Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. 


There are many open marijuana-related bills in the state, acts or amendments, including using cannabis funding to aid after school programs and substance use prevention.


MAUCRSA establishes all of the regulatory laws and procedures for commercial medical and adult-use cannabis in California. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) oversees the medical cannabis program, while the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) is responsible for all adult-use consumer affairs and business licenses.  

Where is it Safe to Purchase?

According to California law, adults 21 and older may purchase marijuana from any state-licensed recreational cannabis dispensary with identification. How much weed can you buy in California? One ounce, or less than 28.35 grams, of adult-use, dried flower cannabis, and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. 


Cannabis delivery is legal across the state, although because of the current California marijuana laws, some counties have banned deliveries from coming into their jurisdictions. If patients are unable to make the transaction themselves, they also may designate a caregiver to purchase and deliver medical marijuana on their behalf. 

Do You Need a Medical Card to Buy From a Dispensary in California? 

No, you just need to have a state-issued identification card and be at least 21 years old. All adult-use purchases are subject to a 15% cannabis excise tax, an 8%-10% city tax, and a 7.25%-11% sales and use tax, depending on location.


Under Proposition 64, however, medical marijuana patients who present a valid medical marijuana identification card do not have to pay the sales and use tax when making retail purchases of medical cannabis, concentrates, edibles, or topical products.

Where is it Safe to Consume?

Consumption of recreational pot must take place in a private space for adults 21 and older, and for medical card holders 18 and older. The California Department of Public Health lists counties that participate in the California Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program.  


Onsite consumption is permitted inside businesses or spaces that hold a commercial cannabis consumption license. San Francisco developed onsite consumption licenses before other cities, first serving its medical community. In Southern California, West Hollywood has also taken steps to allow consumption lounges and restaurants. 


Consumption is allowed at events with a licenses granted by the BCC. 


Smoking or vaping in a designated non-smoking area is a $100 infraction. Smoking is not allowed within 1,000 feet of a school, day-care center, or youth center while children are present.


Consumption in a motor vehicle is not allowed, neither while driving nor while riding as a passenger. Additionally, one cannot consume cannabis nor have an open container of weed while driving or riding as a passenger in a boat or airplane, all of which come with a $250 fine. Riding a bicycle under the influence of cannabis is also illegal.  

Possession and Cultivation

So how much weed can you carry in California? Adults 21 or older can possess up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of adult-use cannabis, and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. 


Adults may transfer or gift up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of dried cannabis and 8 grams of cannabis concentrates to another adult 21 or older.


California medical marijuana cultivation laws state that adults also may participate in a home cultivation program. Adults without a valid qualifying physician’s recommendation are allowed to grow a maximum of six plants, regardless of maturity level. Some counties and cities have their own specific laws on cultivation.


Under MAUCRSA, medical cannabis patients and their caregivers can possess and transport up to 8 ounces, or 226.8 grams, of dried cannabis or concentrates and up to six mature plants, or 12 immature plants. 


Adult users may possess and transport no more than 1 ounce of marijuana, or 28.5 grams, and 8 grams of cannabis concentrates. Legal consumers can carry cannabis in their vehicles, but it must be in a sealed container or in the trunk. 

How Old Do I Need
to Be to Consume?
Possession Limit
for Flower
Possession Limit
for Concentrates

Medical Marijuana Registry

The California Department of Public Health created the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP) to establish a state-authorized ID card, along with a registry to verify qualified patients and their primary caregivers. Patients must apply for a card for themselves and their designated primary caregivers. Generally, medical cards are valid up to one year. Prior to receipt of their registry identification cards, patients are required to pay the fee required by their county’s program.


The Medical Board of California issued Guidelines for the Recommendation of Cannabis for Medical Purposes on April 2018. California marijuana laws have since updated the qualifying conditions list to reflect the possibility of other chronic or persistent medical symptoms.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Chronic migraine
  • Chronic pain
  • Epilepsy and other seizure conditions
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to caused by M.S.
  • Severe nausea
  • Any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either:
    • Limits the ability of the patient to conduct one or more major life activities. 
    • If not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health.

Application Process

  1. Visit the CDPH’s Medical Marijuana ID registration site.
  2. Provide a proof of residency in a California county.
  3. Provide a valid copy of a government-issued identification card.
  4. Obtain written certification from a physician confirming a medical condition, and that medical cannabis is an appropriate treatment.
  5. Designate a caregiver, if necessary.
  6. Submit a completed application for patients and designated caregiver, if applicable.
  7. Receive a Medical Marijuana Identification Card.


Patients in the registry who require assistance obtaining or using medical cannabis may designate a primary caregiver. A primary caregiver must be at least 18 years old, and may provide care for more than one patient so long as all patients reside within the same county. A primary caregiver cannot apply for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card. 


The patient must apply for the designated caregiver. Caregiver registration is valid for the same duration as the patient’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card. The required fee varies by county.


A primary caregiver is a person who consistently assumes the responsibility for the housing, health or safety of the patient. This may be an individual, or the owner, operator or employee of an appropriately licensed clinic, facility, hospice, or home health agency. Those seeking to apply to grow commercially have to apply through CalCannabis, a branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.


The law allows for non-resident adults who have a valid driver’s license, state or federal ID to purchase marijuana for adult use.

Lab Testing

The BCC requires that all cannabis harvested for commercial medical and adult use, as well as all cannabis products, must be tested to meet certain quality and safety control standards.


As of December 31, 2018, the following substances are required to be analyzed for lab testing:

  • Cannabinoids
  • Foreign material
  • Heavy metals
  • Microbial impurities: (e.g., A. fumigatis, E. coli, and salmonella)
  • Moisture content testing
  • Mycotoxins
  • Residual pesticides, processing chemicals, and solvents
  • Terpenoids
  • Water activity testing of solid or semisolid edibles


Business registrations for distributors, retailers, testing laboratories, temporary cannabis events, and microbusinesses can be initiated at the BCC site, where the full forms are available for each type of licensee. Licensing is conducted online.


Information on this page was last verified on June 5, 2019. This page was last updated on Sept. 5, 2019.