California Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In California?
Looking for other state cannabis laws? Click Here!

California Law: 

StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in California?

Yes. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) was voted into law under California’s Prop 64 in 2016. AUMA legalized adults 21 and over to possess cannabis in a private space, with quantity restrictions. Those quantities included at most 1 oz per person and six plants per residence.  

Under The Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation Safety Act (MAUCRSA) enacted in 2018, commercial production, distribution, and sale of cannabis for adult-use was legalized. Recreational cannabis has become so successful in California, despite the pandemic, the state collected nearly $1 billion in cannabis taxes in 2020. Due to the continued spread of the coronavirus in California and the demand for products, cannabis workers in the state are now included in the first phase rollouts of the vaccine.

While adult-use businesses are legal statewide, local city and county governments can restrict and even ban cannabis businesses within their dominion. For example, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties allow for cultivation, manufacturing, and retail while surrounding counties such as Ventura, San Bernardino, and Kern Country ban cannabis commerce. 

Check other California counties here

While visiting California and partaking in legal cannabis activities, it is important to remember The California Bureau of Cannabis Control has prohibited the export of cannabis to other states since the U.S.Drug Enforcement Administration still considers cannabis a Schedule 1 drug. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in California?

Yes. Medical Marijana has been legal for use by patients of all ages, with a doctor’s prescription since 1996 with the Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215). This act was phased out in 2018 with the passing of MAUCRSA, whereas recreational and medical systems were combined. 

Are CBD products legal in California? 

Yes. Since cannabis is legal to possess and buy for adult use in California, CBD products with any ratio of cannabinoids are also legal.  

Yet, any and all CBD in food and drink is still state/federally illegal.

What’s California’s cannabis sales tax? 

7.25% is the sales tax on all retail items, including cannabis

Are there any other California cannabis tax rates?

Yes. State Excise Tax on Retail sales: 15% 

Cultivation Tax: $$9.65/oz

Local Cannabis Business Taxes: Depends on the city. Ranges from 0-15%

Is cannabis delivery legal in California?

Yes. While commercial cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and retail activities can be regulated or even prohibited by local governments in the state, deliveries are legal throughout California. 

Many municipalities have challenged this state-wide inconsistency since the legalized market came into effect in 2016.  For example, 24 cities that prohibit cannabis sales in 2019 sued the state for allowing deliveries within their domain. In the end, lawmakers sided with the majority, enabling delivery services to continue in cities where cannabis sales are banned. 

Delivery services are still subject to local limits based on time, place, and delivery manner (operating hours and delivery locations). Check out the sites below to see if there are any High Times affiliated retail stores or delivery services in your area:

Have a Heart: Coalinga, Oakland

530 Cannabis: Shasta Lake

Synergy: Redding

High Times Delivery: California

California’s Cannabis Timeline:

1913: California banned marijuana 

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1972: California Marijuana Initiative, Prop 19. The state of California has been at the forefront of efforts to liberalize cannabis laws in the United States, beginning in 1972 with the nation’s first ballot initiative attempting to legalize cannabis. While the measure failed with final votes at Yes 33.5% to No 66.5%, it showed promising acceptance in significant cities like San Francisco and Berkley. 

1975: Moscone Act, California decriminalizes less than 1 oz of cannabis

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins.”

1996: Compassionate Use Act, Prop 215, the passed voter initiative, allows for the use of medical marijuana in California despite the lack of FDA testing and approval. This was the first medical marijuana ballot initiative passed at the state level. 

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs. 

2010: Senate Bill 1449, signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger, reduced penalties for cannabis to a civil infraction

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2016: The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) Prop 64

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.

2018: The Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation Safety Act (MAUCRSA) 

2020: California collects $1 billion in cannabis taxes

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