Marijuana is often considered “legal” in California, but this is only partly true. The reality is that marijuana has been decriminalized in stages, and only some recreational and medicinal uses are legal. For adults over 21, it is safe to say that using, possessing, or growing small amounts of marijuana should not result in any arrest.
However, countless well-intentioned people break the law without realizing it every year and often pay the price. That’s why we’ve created this guide to California’s marijuana laws. Please be aware that the laws have been changing rapidly and are often very complex.
This guide is not meant to be a substitute for professional legal advice. If you or someone you love has been arrested, let us give you a free consultation to discuss your case—and show you how we can help. Fill out the form to the right and get your free consultation today.
Recreational Marijuana Laws in California
Thanks to a voter referendum called Proposition 64, marijuana was decriminalized for personal recreational use in November 2016. This immediately overhauled California’s state laws regarding controlled substances with amendments to protect marijuana use. The result is that it’s legal to use it if you follow very strict rules.
The most important of these rules are:
- You must be at least 21 years of age.
- You cannot possess more than 1 ounce of the herb/leaf or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (“wax,” hash oil, or vaping materials) at a time.
- It is still illegal to buy marijuana unless you buy it at a dispensary licensed by the state.
Throughout 2017, the state was slow to issue licenses to marijuana shops and was not required to do so until 2018. Even after that time, getting licensed could be a long slow process for many shops, making it difficult to acquire marijuana legally in many areas.
If You Are Over 21
If you are 21 and over, you do have the option of growing your marijuana, but this comes with additional rules, including:
- No household can grow more than six plants.
- You must secure and enclose your growth. The easiest way to do this is by keeping it inside.
If you do not follow these rules, you could still be convicted of a drug crime—even though marijuana is “legal.”
Medical Marijuana in California
Medical marijuana has been legal longer than recreational marijuana. This is good because it means medicinal users have more resources and dispensaries they can rely on. However, you need a valid medical reason to qualify for this kind of marijuana use and must have a recommendation from a doctor.
Medical marijuana was first legalized under the state’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996. This law sets several conditions you must meet to be a valid user:
- You have the recommendation to use marijuana (verbal or in writing)
- from a licensed California physician
- to treat a serious medical condition
Medical Marijuana ID Cards
The easiest way to prove that you meet this requirement is to have a valid medical marijuana ID card. You are not required to have a card to use medical marijuana. However, the card helps you prove immediately to the police that your use is valid.
It is highly recommended to apply for a card if you have a valid doctor’s recommendation (and to get the recommendation in writing). Generally, you should follow the same rules for possessing, growing, and buying marijuana as recreational users do. However, medical users have slightly more leeway.
- Although 1 ounce of a leaf or 8 grams of concentrate are the normal limits, you can possess more if it is medically necessary for your medical use.
- You can grow six matured plants or 12 immature plants, but you could potentially grow more if it’s necessary to supply your reasonable medical needs—usually if the growing conditions mean that 12 young plants wouldn’t have a high survival rate.
- You can buy your marijuana from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary or a growing collective that cultivates less than 100 plants.
The Compassionate Use Act
The Compassionate Use Act also gives some rights to your primary caregiver, who may grow or possess the marijuana for you as long as it is strictly for your medical needs. Make sure you know your rights by speaking to a criminal defense lawyer from the Simmrin Law Group today.
Because recreational use is now legal, these medical marijuana rules may seem less important—but they’re not. There are many cases where the amount of marijuana you have, or the way you bought it, would be illegal for recreational use but are legal if you are a valid medical user.
Local & Federal Marijuana Laws in California
Even with statewide decriminalization, every county and town has the right to pass its local laws about marijuana. You have to know what these rules are and follow them, or you can face legal charges. For example, it may be illegal to use marijuana within a certain distance from a school, grow it in certain neighborhoods, or follow other obscure rules.
Federal law also presents a problem. Marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law, and no state law can change that. Among other things, this means that:
- It is not legal to take marijuana across state lines, even to (or from) another state where it’s legal
- You cannot bring marijuana on airplanes
- There is still a risk of facing arrests, raids, or criminal charges from federal law enforcement
Most individuals who use small amounts of marijuana have nothing to fear if they do not sell it. Talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer from the Simmrin Law Group today about the marijuana charges you face in California. Do not let the District Attorney or prosecutor put you in jail for a crime that is no longer on the books.
When Is Marijuana Not Legal in California?
Marijuana is illegal in many circumstances:
- Underage marijuana use (less than 21 years old)
- Marijuana possession if you have more than the legal amount
- Marijuana possession for sale (whether you sold it or simply “intended” to sell it)
- Marijuana cultivation if it is more than the allowed amount
- Concentrated cannabis in large amounts or
- Chemical production of a controlled substance if you use butane or another chemical extraction process to make concentrated cannabis
- DUI if you are caught driving under the influence of marijuana
- Other charges depending on the circumstances
Some of these offenses can be charged as felonies and carry long prison sentences. All of them have the potential for at least jail time—but you can fight them. If you or someone you love has been arrested on a marijuana charge, you need to talk to a lawyer.
Talk to a California Marijuana Lawyer for Free
Now that you know the answer to how much weed can you carry in California, be sure to speak with the Simmrin Law Group about your case. Marijuana is supposed to be legal, and you shouldn’t face jail time because of it. Don’t let one arrest ruin years of your life.
Let the Simmrin Law Group give you a free consultation—and help you defend yourself. Fill out the form to the right or call us and get your free consultation today. We will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process.