Legislation History

California voters passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or Proposition 64, on November 8, 2016, Proposition 64 legalized the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, and established sales and cultivation taxes. The Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Prior to the approval of Proposition 64, the possession or use of marijuana for recreational purposes was illegal in California.


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.


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) holds jurisdictional authority over 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?

Adults 21 and older may purchase marijuana from any state-licensed dispensary, regardless of patient status. If patients are unable to make the transaction themselves, they also may designate a caregiver to purchase and deliver medical marijuana on their behalf. Delivery services are available throughout the state.


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?

Cannabis consumption must take place in a private space. 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. Smoking or vaping in a designated non-smoking area is an infraction.


Consumption in a motor vehicle is not allowed, neither while driving nor while riding as passengers. Riding a bicycle under the influence of cannabis also is illegal.  


Adults 21 or older can buy and possess up to 1 ounce, or 28.35 grams, of adult-use cannabis, and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. Adults also may participate in California’s home cultivation program. Adults without a valid qualifying physician’s recommendation are allowed to grow a maximum of six plants, regardless of maturity level.


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, or 28.5 grams, of dried cannabis 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.


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.


Democratic State Attorney General Jerry Brown issued guidelines in 2008 detailing measures to ensure the non-diversion of marijuana grown for medical use. Patients and their caregivers should not gift or transfer medical marijuana.


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 (1) 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.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Chronic migraine
  • Chronic pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea
  • Any other chronic or persistent medical condition that limits the ability of the patient to conduct one or more major life activities

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 a number of patients so long as they 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.


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
  • Moisture content testing
  • Residual solvents and processing chemicals
  • Residual pesticides
  • Microbial impurities: i.e. A. fumigatis, E. coli, and salmonella
  • Foreign material
  • Terpenoids
  • Mycotoxins
  • Heavy metals
  • 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 June 14, 2019.