is weed legal in california

Is Weed Legal In California: Full Guide

Table of Contents

California is synonymous with good weed. Here you’ll find the richest growing regions in the world, with Humboldt County dominating the top-shelf production. Forever a progressive state, it’s no secret that weed is legal in California. But, for those looking to know the key details, here are the facts about getting high in the Golden State. 

Is Weed Legal in California? Straight to the point.

  • Recreational THC: Yes
  • Medical THC: Yes
  • CBD: Yes
  • Delta-8: Yes

Medical Weed Laws

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and was the first state to implement a program for marijuana patients through the Compassionate Care Act. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) created a database for verifying patients through the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP). This website registry gave public officials and law enforcement the ability to track all registered patients and thereby verify their status at any time. 

As medical marijuana patients, Californians may grow their own cannabis (see details below) and purchase up to eight ounces of medical cannabis every day. To begin the process for application, patients must first have documentation from their physician noting that they have a qualifying condition. You must be 18 to apply or have a caregiver or legal guardian over 18 sign for you. 

Qualifying conditions include:

  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Severe nausea
  • Persistent muscle spasms (for example, spasms caused by multiple sclerosis)
  • Seizures (for example, epileptic seizures)
  • Your physician can also recommend cannabis to help with chronic or persistent medical symptoms that either:
    • Substantially limit your ability to conduct major life activities
    • May cause serious harm to your safety, physical health or mental health

Once applicants have a record of their condition with their regular physician, they can see a medical marijuana doctor. Virtual visits are an easy option. Then, applicants must apply with their county health department and pay a fee. The medical card is valid for up to one year, at which point, the patient must pay another fee and see the doctor again. 

Patients who show their card in a dispensary do not have to pay state or local cannabis taxes. 

Recreational Weed Laws

In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, legalizing adult-use cannabis. This allowed all adults over 21 to purchase up to 28.5 grams of cannabis, eight grams of cannabis extract or concentrate, and grow up to six plants at their residence. 

Californians may buy cannabis to consume in their own homes on private properties (with permission) but cannot take cannabis across state lines. This includes other legal, bordering states. 

There are many ways to obtain legal weed in California, including through dispensaries or by home delivery. See below for more information.

Is Weed Decriminalized in California?

In addition to legalizing weed for adults over 21, Proposition 64 also “reduces criminal penalties for specified marijuana-related offenses for adults and juveniles; and authorizes resentencing or dismissal and sealing of prior, eligible marijuana-related convictions.”

Cannabinoid Variants

There’s a big difference between hemp-derived and marijuana-derived cannabinoids. Any cannabinoid from marijuana must be grown, processed, and sold within licensed operations per state regulations. However, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production, sale, and distribution of hemp-derived cannabinoids. So, what does this mean for cannabinoid variants in California?

Is CBD legal in California?

CBD is legal in California and found widely in dispensaries, smoke shops, grocery stores, and in many specialties and everyday items. CBD is the most dominant cannabinoid in hemp, and although it’s non-psychoactive, it boasts plenty of medicinal and therapeutic benefits. There is one stipulation for all CBD products—they must not contain more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC.

Is Delta-8 legal in California?

Delta-8 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that has recently gained popularity for its mild psychoactive effects. Delta-8 THC is easily produced from hemp extraction for infusion into products like vape pens, gummies, and tinctures. Because it is psychoactive, Delta-8 has come under question for its legal status. However, it is legal in California so long as the final product contains less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC, per the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Is Delta-10 legal in California?

Delta-10 THC is very similar to Delta-8 in both effect and legality. It offers users a mild high but with less intensity than Delta-9. Californians over 18 can purchase Delta-10 products containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC.

Are THC-O and other THC variants legal in California?

In recent years, alternative hemp-derived cannabinoids have dominated the market as a more accessible way to get high. However, they have existed in a legal gray area until February 2023. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has declared Delta-8-THC-O and Delta-9-THC-O illegal controlled substances. These compounds are not naturally occurring in either hemp or marijuana and are considered synthetic cannabinoids. 

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp and its byproducts so long as they contain no more than 0.3% Delta-9-THC by volume. The market for cannabinoids has grown in the states since then as several alternative cannabinoids emerged, including synthetic THC isomers. 

For the time being, this latest update does not affect alternative cannabinoids like THC-JD, THC-P, THCP-O, THC-H, and THC-B because they do exist naturally in trace amounts. Advocates feel that only the end of the federal prohibition on marijuana will successfully regulate synthetic or naturally occurring cannabinoids.

Are HHC and HHC-O legal in California?

It might not sound like it, but HHC and HHC-O are actually THC compounds. They originate from the hemp plant and, during lab manufacturing, become a new kind of cannabinoid. The effects are mellow, offering many benefits to consumers. Much like the other alternative cannabinoids on this list, HHC and HHC-O are legal in California, with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC.

Cultivation Laws

Adults over 21 can grow up to six cannabis plants at home. They are for personal use only and cannot be sold. However, you may give cannabis to other adults. If you wish to create cannabis products, you cannot use butane, propane, or other volatile solvents. 

Certain cities and counties impose specific restrictions on growing cannabis indoors. If you wish to grow cannabis inside your home, check your local laws to verify what’s legal in your area. 

Anyone wishing to grow cannabis for sale to licensed retailers must also obtain a cultivation license. The type of license will depend on the size of your grow site, what type of lighting you’ll use (if any), and the number of plants you intend to grow. There are several different cultivation licenses in California. See the full details here

Where to Buy Weed in California

California has one of the largest cannabis industries in the world. There is no shortage of ways to get high on the many incredible products grown and produced in California. 


There are 866 licensed dispensaries in the state of California. Adults over 21 can shop for products like pre-rolls, vape pens, gummies, hard candy, THC beverages, and extracts concentrates of all kinds. There are many specialty products available, and each dispensary offers a different kind of experience for its customers and patients. 


In addition to the dispensaries, there are 374 delivery licensees in California. These services either work directly with brands, are independently operated, or work as a subset of the retailer. Californians statewide have the luxury of choosing delivery to their homes. 

Direct to Consumer

California is one of the only states with direct-to-consumer cannabis sales. This allows brands to bypass the dispensary channel and sell directly to their customers. So, a customer may shop online through a brand’s website and order delivery. The brands partner with dispensary services to deliver the goods directly to a customer’s home. This not only saves the customers the dispensary markup but it allows the brands to maintain a closer relationship with their audience.

Black Market

Despite legalization efforts, the marijuana black market remains active. The illegal purchase of weed from a black market dealer comes with serious risks. Not only is it difficult to determine the potency and purity of the product, but the legal implications can be disastrous. In some cases, a mere slap on the wrist, but in others, buying weed illegally results in jail time or a prison sentence. For those that live in a state with a medical or recreational marijuana program, it’s best to obtain cannabis through legal channels.

General FAQ

Where can you smoke weed in California? 

You may smoke weed on private property in California. This includes your own home, a friend’s home (with permission), or other property you own. Some property owners can allow cannabis use on their private property. For example, a cannabis-friendly hotel with an outdoor smoking lounge or other areas hidden from public view. You cannot smoke in public places, such as bars, restaurants, or parks. This includes federal lands like national parks. 

It’s illegal to smoke weed anywhere it is also illegal to smoke tobacco. For example, you cannot smoke within 1,000 feet of a school or any facility where children are present.

Can you smoke weed in public in California? 

No, you cannot smoke in public in California. See above for more information.

When was weed legalized in California?

Medical marijuana was legalized in 1996 in California. Recreational adult-use marijuana was legalized in 2016.

Punishment for Illegal Acts FAQ

What are the penalties for selling, gifting, transporting, or importing weed?

Selling, gifting, transporting, or importing weed comes with varying punishments based on the severity of the crime and the volume of the cannabis. If the crime is deemed a misdemeanor, the punishment is up to six months in prison and a fine of $500. For felony charges, the punishment is three to seven years in prison.

What is the penalty for selling to a minor?

Selling weed to a minor is a felony punishable by three to seven years in prison.

What is possession with the intent to sell?

Possession with intent to distribute is when you have more cannabis than you reasonably consume, likely in excess of legal limits. In California, intent to distribute more than one ounce of cannabis is a misdemeanor. Punishments include up to six months in prison and fines of $500.

When is possession still a crime?

Possession is a crime if you possess more than the allotted legal limit, or if you are suspected of intent to distribute.

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