How did California's Legal Cannabis Market Come About?

Most people are vaguely aware of the fact that cannabis has existed in a weird limbo in California for the past 22 years – not quite legal and yet not quite illegal. Since the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996,once you had a medical recommendation from your doctor you could either grow your own cannabis, allow someone to grow it for you, make your way to one of the state's estimated 3,000 storefront medical dispensary, or place an order with a delivery service.

Businesses operating under Prop 215 in CA were not licensed or regulated by the state. Only a few cities and counties offered local permits or rules to follow. It was a complicated and unstable situation in which even law enforcement felt genuinely confused about what was allowed.

Then, in late 2015, the state legislature passed a set of laws to allow for medical marijuana businesses to become legitimate, and in late 2016, voters passed Proposition 64, legalizing adult use. Personal cannabis laws took effect Nov 2016, allowing adults 21 or older to possess, transport and gift up to one ounce of cannabis flowers to other adults 21 or older, possess up to eight grams of extract or infused foods, and grow up to six plants. Commercial licensing of cannabis businesses began in January 2018. The laws specified that local government could control what commercial cannabis activities are allowed in their community, and that each business must obtain both a local and state license. 


Due to the complexity of the new laws and regulations a significant majority of cannabis businesses remain unlicensed.  

Learn the answers to some frequently asked questions below:

What's the difference between Audlt-use marijuana and Medical marijuana?
It's exactly the same weed, held to exactly the same regulations and testing standards. The main difference is to purchase for non-medical use you must be at least 21, for medical you must be a patient as detailed below.

Do I need to renew my medical recommendation?
Being a medical marijuana patient will allow you to purchase and possess more pot and stronger edibles at a reduced tax rate. However, currently you'll need a state medical marijuana ID card in addition to your Dr's recommendation.

Where is it okay for me to smoke & use cannabis?
Basically, you are limited to using cannabis on private property, where the owner is okay with it.

Now that cannabis is legal are there activities that are illegal?
Yes. This includes: Consume (smoke) in public. Drive while high. Smoke in a car, be it driver or passenger. Drive with a half-smoked joint or unsealed jar of weed anywhere in the main part of the car. Sell any kind of cannabis product without a local and state license. Sell or gift to anyone under 21. Grow more than six plants at home if you do not have a doctor's recommendation. Grow or smoke at home if the landlord is not permissive. Use marijuana if you have a job that drug tests.

Are there quality controls for pot in California?
Yes. State law requires strict testing procedures for things like mold, pesticide use and bacteria.

What if I have a previous marijuana conviction?
Prop 64 eliminated ordowngraded most cannabis offenses from felonies or misdemeanors to misdemeanors or infractions. Persons who have a prior conviction for an offense may petition the court for re-sentencing or dismissal and have their records changed accordingly.

What about protecting children?
Prop 64 implements the toughest child safeguards in the nation and dedicates most of the revenues from new marijuana taxes to important public health, education and prevention programs focused on kids. This includes a seed to sale track & trace system, strict label and packaging requirements, and child resistant packaging. Marijuana advertising and marketing directed at children is prohibited. Prop 64 will fund reliable drug education, prevention and treatment programs aimed at teens, including after-school programs that help kids stay in school. These programs represent a strong investment for public health, and will fill a void in schools and communities by funding real efforts to combat all substance abuse.