Guide to Laws About Marijuana in California

Marijuana is known by many names: cannabis, weed, kush, green, mary jane, etc. But whatever you call it, this drug is heavily regulated in California. (Also see our guide to marijuana laws of other states)

Is it legal to purchase or use marijuana in California?

In California, if you are 21 or older, it is legal to purchase and use a certain amount of marijuana (aka cannabis) for any purpose, whether medical or recreational. You don’t need any special card or anything to buy or use it. Of course there are restrictions on where you can buy or use it (see below).

If you are 18 years old or older, you can only buy marijuana with a medical marijuana card.

Current marijuana law in California is based on Prop 64 which passed in November 2016.1Prop 64

Note about federal lands: Marijuana is still NOT legal for any purpose on federal lands within California, such as national parks. This is because federal law still says marijuana is illegal (see below).

How much cannabis can I possess and grow?

Except where a city has its own rules, in California you may possess for personal use up to 1 ounce of marijuana and you may cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants in your home. Plants at home must not be visible from a public place.2Possessing more than 1 ounce or more than 6 plants at home can subject you to up to 6 months in jail and/or $500 fine

You may NOT possess any pot on the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.

As for possession and cultivation for commercial purposes, see our Rules for Marijuana Businesses.

Can I smoke, vape, or otherwise use pot in public?

No, you may not consume, eat, smoke, vape, or use marijuana in any other way in a public place. If you do you will be subject to a $100 fine.

Can I take pot on a plane?

If you will be using a federally regulated airport, then no.

Can I take pot to another state?

No you can’t take pot across state laws, under federal law.

What if I’m not 21 yet?

If you are not 21, you may not legally purchase, use or possess ANY marijuana.3If you are between 18-21 you can get fined $100 for use or possession; if you are younger than 18 you can be referred to drug counseling and community service

BUT if you are 18 or older, it is legal to purchase, use and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, but you need a “written or oral recommendation” (generally, a prescription) from a doctor. Patients and/or their primary caregivers may possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana and/or 6 mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants, unless larger amounts are recommended by a doctor.4California Compassionate Use Act 1996, Cal. Health & Saf. Code, § 11362.5 (1996) (codifying voter initiative Prop. 215); Cal. Health & Saf. Code, §§ 11362.7 – 11362.83 (2003) (codifying SB 420)

Can my employer fire me for using marijuana?

See our Guide to Laws for Employees.

What are the laws regarding selling marijuana?

Currently in California it is legal to sell recreational marijuana, unless a particular city bans it. But you must get a special license to do so, and comply with regulations. Selling marijuana without a license can subject you to up to 6 months in county jail, and/or $500 fine, and/or civil penalties for each transaction! So don’t do it.

See more rules for marijuana businesses.

If I buy marijuana from a shop, can I use it there?

It is up to each city or county to decide this. In the city of LA, currently it is NOT legal to use marijuana on-site at a pot shop. But the City Council is considering changing that.

Doesn’t federal law still say marijuana is illegal?

Technically, yes, federal law prohibits marijuana use and possession even for medical use. While the Obama administration had decided NOT to enforce these laws against those who are following state law, the Trump administration, particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has decided they WILL enforce federal marijuana law. How exactly that happens is yet to be seen.

What about CBD?

See our Guide to CBD Law.


See options on getting marijuana related legal help


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