Since 1996, California has built a reputation for its progressive actions on marijuana legalization. Under Proposition 215, California became the first state to allow residents to legally use marijuana for medical purposes under a regulated system.

In 2016, the broader stipulations of Proposition 64 extended the recreational use of marijuana to California’s citizens and allowed for personal consumption and cultivation. The right to legally sell marijuana for recreational use took effect in 2018.

Despite the widespread acceptance of marijuana in California and the relaxation of legal enforcement regarding its recreational use, legal limitations do still exist. Legal ramifications can range from misdemeanors for possession infractions to felony charges for sale and delivery crimes.

The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) outlines the entirety of both the legal recreational and medicinal use of cannabis in California. This article will break down the laws regarding marijuana use, sale, and cultivation and outline the legal consequences of breaking those laws.

Recreational Use

Passed in 1996, Proposition 64 enacted the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. While medical marijuana laws had been passed 20 years prior, this act allowed any adult aged 21 and over to own marijuana, use it recreationally, grow it, and give it to others. However, specific quantity limits determine the legality of its use, and those quantities vary according to intent.

The AUMA details the parameters for personal use and the commercial distribution of cannabis. It is important to note that while marijuana is legal in California, local governments, employers, and landlords can still prohibit use and enforce their own restrictions and punishments for violations.

Possession and Use of Cannabis

Adults aged 21 years and over can possess and use no more than 28.5 grams of marijuana. They can possess no more than eight grams of concentrated marijuana (hashish).

All marijuana consumption must be done in the user’s own residence or an establishment allowing legal use. It is not legal to use marijuana while operating a vehicle, and violators may face license suspensions or forfeiture of their vehicle. Residents can also possess, cultivate, and process up to six marijuana plants and retain the product as long as it does not exceed the 28.5-gram legal limit.

The following are penalties for the most common possession and use infractions:

  • Possession by a minor under 18 years old: Misdemeanor — 10 days in a detention center, $250 fine.
  • Possession on school grounds by anyone over 18 years old: Misdemeanor — 10 days incarceration, $500 fine.
  • Possession over 28.5 grams: Misdemeanor — six months incarceration, $500 fine.
  • Intent to distribute any amount: Misdemeanor — six months incarceration, $500 fine.
  • Cultivation of more than six plants: Misdemeanor — six months incarceration, $500 fine.
  • Possession of more than eight grams of concentrated marijuana: Misdemeanor — six months incarceration, $500 fine.
  • Inducing use by a minor: Felony — three to seven years incarceration.

Sale, Distribution, and Manufacturing of Cannabis

In order to legally sell marijuana in California, individuals need to apply for and attain appropriate licenses through the Office of Cannabis Control. California instituted a special excise tax of 15 percent on marijuana sales, on top of the normal sales and use taxes in the state. Local governments may establish additional taxes within their jurisdictions.

Companies must also obtain permits from their local governments, as these bodies are in charge of regulating establishments in their communities. It is illegal to apply chemical additives to cannabis for distribution unless specifically authorized by the government.

The following are penalties for unlicensed and illegal manufacture and distribution of cannabis:

  • Using a minor in illegal sale, possession, or transport of marijuana: Felony — three to seven years incarceration.
  • Unlicensed sale of cannabis: Misdemeanor — six months incarceration, $500 fine.
  • Sale to persons aged 14-17 years old: Felony — three to five years incarceration.
  • Sale to persons under 14 years old: Felony — three to seven years incarceration.
  • Unauthorized manufacture of concentrated marijuana: 16 months to three years incarceration, $500 fine.
  • Chemical manufacture (including extraction) of concentrated marijuana: Three to seven years incarceration, $50,000 fine.

Medicinal Use

Under Proposition 215, the medicinal use of marijuana provides expanded legal allowances for individuals carrying medical ID cards obtained from the California Department of Public Health. Individuals with a medical ID card are exempt from paying sales tax when purchasing marijuana from a dispensary.

Patients who suffer from certain physical or mental conditions, such as anorexia, arthritis, AIDS, and cancer, can have up to eight ounces of marijuana. However, patients can legally possess more than the eight-ounce limit if a medical professional’s recommendation allows it.

Patients and primary caregivers are also able to cultivate six plants for medical use, or up to 12 immature plants, similar to individuals using marijuana recreationally. Local codes can adjust these numbers up or down and set zoning restrictions on cultivation.

For more information on California marijuana laws or if you need legal assistance, contact us.