Marijuana Laws in California

This article outlines current marijuana laws and regulations in California, with a look at the state’s views on cannabis and penalties related to illegal activities.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: This article outlines current marijuana laws, regulations, and penalties in the state of California. Your questions are welcomed at the end.

Table Of Contents:

Is Marijuana Legal?

Marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in California. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act,or Proposition 64, legalized recreational use of cannabis in November 2016 to anyone over the age of 21. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 legalized medical use of marijuana to those over 18 with a proper medical card. Both of these acts continue to be in effect.

However, it’s important to remember lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to make legal cannabis work.

In fact, legalization a new concept to the country as a whole; many laws are constantly changing.The truth is the state is still figuring out the logistics. For example, it was recently reported that a law is currently in the works to expunge prior convictions or decrease ongoing sentences for prior marijuana charges. [1] The law isn’t yet in effect as the bill still requires a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. You can follow updates concerning this issue here:

In addition, there have been struggles regulating cannabis business. In July 2018, new standards were set for labels, packaging, and distribution. [2] When this law was enacted, legal marijuana stores had to get rid of their entire supply and wait for a new one to come in. This was a big hit to people who were purchasing cannabis regularly and, in turn, caused a flood back into the illicit market.

Marijuana Laws in California

In terms of the laws set under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the state allows the following:
  • For cannabis to be consumed in a private location.
  • For people to hold a maximum of 28.5 grams, or about an ounce.
  • For people to hold up to 8 grams of concentrates.
  • For people to cultivate up to 6 plants per residency.

What the state doesn’t allow is the following:

  • Consumption of cannabis in public.
  • Manufacture without licensing.
  • Operation of a vehicle while under the influence.
  • Smoking or ingesting cannabis while you’re a passenger in a vehicle.
  • Possessing, ingesting, or smoking marijuana within 1,000 feet of a daycare, school, or youth center while children are present.

It should be noted, though marijuana is legal in the entire state of California, only 18 of 58 counties in the state allow legal marijuana businesses and cultivations on a business scale. Therefore, those who reside in the other 40 counties run much higher risks as marijuana is only obtainable through illegal means.

Furthermore, since cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, you aren’t allowed to travel from California with marijuana through state lines. So, marijuana possession can be charged as a crime if you leave the state unless the state you enter directly has legalized cannabis as well, such as Oregon or Nevada.


There are regulations that serve as the backbone to marijuana laws and are meant to keep people safe and responsible when consuming. Furthermore, legality doesn’t mean the drug is safe. Just like alcohol, marijuana comes with side effects which are often overlooked. Here you can find a list of possession penalties, but keep in mind the regulations are subject to change.

1. Possession penalties

1.1. Possession of up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate

1.2 Possession of more than one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate.

1.3 Possession of up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate upon the grounds of, or within, any school providing instruction in kindergarten or any of grades 1-12, inclusive, during the hours the school is open for classes or school-related programs

1.4 Possessing, smoking, or ingesting cannabis or cannabis products in or upon the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.

1.5 Possession of cannabis for sale

1.6 Possession of an open container or package of cannabis or cannabis products while driving, operating, or riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle, boat, aircraft or other vehicle used for transportation.

Marijuana DUI

Driving under the influence laws for marijuana work very similar to DUI alcohol laws. The only difference is law enforcement measures alcohol through blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, whereas they have no way of measuring a cannabis high. Therefore, having any amount of cannabis in your system can result in a DUI as the result of marijuana consumption.

NOTE HERE: Sometimes, house arrest or work programs are alternate sentences for jail time. Additionally, you might be a candidate for drug court and seek alternate sentencing in the state.The penalties for DUI of marijuana offenses in the State of California are as follows [3]:

1st-Time Offender

  • A fine between $390 and $1,000.
  • Jail time of anywhere between 48 hours and 6 months.
  • License suspension of up to 6 months.
  • 3 month DUI school or 30 hours of classes.
  • Up to 3 years of probation.

2nd-Time Offender

  • A fine between $390 and $1,000.
  • Jail time of anywhere between 96 hours to 1 year.
  • License suspension of up to 2 years.
  • 18 to 30 months of DUI school.
  • Up to 3 years of probation.

3rd-Time Offender

  • A fine between $390 and $1,000.
  • Jail time of anywhere between 120 days to 1 year.
  • License suspension of anywhere between 1 to 3 years.
  • 30 months of DUI school.
  • 3 to 5 years of informal probation.

These penalties become more severe if your DUI results in someone else’s injury. Depending on the situation, you could be charged with a felony which results in a fine upwards of $5,000 and/or risk 16 months to 4 years in prison.If your DUI caused a fatality, you will be prosecuted under vehicular manslaughter or other of the state’s murder laws. Even if the death was a result of an accident. This can lead you into a 15-year to life prison sentence.

Views on Marijuana

As discussed, there are 40 counties within California which consider it illegal to run a marijuana business or cultivation. With this in mind, we begin to see that the whole state doesn’t have the open opinion to cannabis as we might expect.

For example, just because marijuana is legal doesn’t mean employers want to see it show up on adrug test. In fact, depending on the company, your cannabis consumption might cost you a job. This isn’t the case for every job. Some companies will allow you to use weed as long as you don’t get high on the job. But any job that requires operation of machinery can legally require clean drug tests.

Another example, just as with alcohol, parents who consume cannabis are at risk when it comes to child custody laws. It all depends on the situation your case finds itself in. If a judge or jury finds your child or children are at risk due to your marijuana use, police records will be sought out from the following:

  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Medical facilities
  • Social welfare agencies
  • Third-party eye-witness(es)

The court has a right to do this under California Family Code 3011. Furthermore, they have the right to drug test you if they’re suspicious of your child’s safety. At the end of the day, courts are looking out for your children and their well-being. Their two main concerns when it comes to cannabis consumption are:

  1. The harm caused to parents due to drug exposure.
  2. The harm caused to children due to drug exposure.

With all this in mind, it’s understandable that not everyone has the same views when it comes to cannabis. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed specific rights. It’s important to look into these matters before deciding to recreationally consume.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Yes! Contrast to popular belief, marijuana has addictive qualities. Due to the fact that THC – the chemical in cannabis which gets you high – is psychoactive, people will feel physical addiction symptoms and more dominant mental addiction symptoms.

How do you know if you’re addicted, or not?

To begin, you can look at the physical signs. Not everyone who consumes cannabis will have these traits as the drug effects everyone differently. Furthermore, it’s unlikely someone will be addicted to cannabis if they smoke on rare occasions, such as once every few months. Chronic, daily users begin to manifest some of the following signs:

  • Aggression
  • Cravings
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Raise in body temperature
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating

Most of marijuana’s addictive qualities take place within the brain. Its psychoactive factors are very similar to other hallucinogens such as LSD due to the fact that it heavily affects emotions and mentality. The risks include:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes

Though the short-term effects have their consequences, long-term cannabis use brings much greater risks. [5] Especially, when marijuana consumption starts at a younger age.

In a study done in New Zealand, it was found that tenacious marijuana use from adolescence to adulthood showed a loss of 6 to 8 IQ points. The study found that those who smoked during adolescence then quit upon becoming an adult never regained those loss IQ points. However, those who didn’t smoke during adolescence but started a persistent habit during adulthood never lost said IQ points.

Regular marijuana also has a tendency to bring upon withdrawal symptoms that can last for weeks. This is when the body and brain react to a lack of THC and improperly function without the chemical. Though cannabis withdrawal symptoms aren’t as strong as other drug withdrawals, such as heroin, they are real. So, if you are dependent on marijuana, you can experience the following when you try to quit:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Cravings
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of focus
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild depression
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss

If you or anyone you love is currently struggling with a marijuana addiction, there are available resources to help you. Feel free to give us a call. Our hotline operators are ready to talk with you about medical treatment options.

Marijuana Treatment

Luckily, there are options available for marijuana treatment. It works a bit differently compared to other drugs considering the psychological implications of the addiction. Cannabis addiction treatment works in the following 5 steps.

1. Medical Assessment

When you enter a reputable rehabilitation facility, you’ll be given a medical assessment as a means of determining the best course of treatment for you. This usually includes drug tests, interviews, and a full medical and family history.

2. Detox

Not everyone who enters rehabilitation for marijuana treatment will required to go through detox. It can be helpful to certain individuals – especially those who chronically smoke or for those using other drugs in combination with weed – but it isn’t necessary for everyone. During detox, you’ll receive professional assistance in “weening” off the drug through monitoring of your health and aid in relieving certain symptoms.

3. Psychological Treatments

Talk therapy is the most important aspect of marijuana treatment. During rehab, you’ll learn how to get through day-to-day life without the use of cannabis. This is done through a change in thoughts, patterns, and beliefs. Once you identify your unique thought processes, counselors can help provide you with alternative ways of thinking and behaving without marijuana.

4. Educational Sessions

After or during psychological treatment, you’ll be enrolled in educational sessions which teach you about addiction. This is vital as those who are addicted tend to not be aware as to how addiction affects them.

5. Supportive Services

Within reputable treatment facilities, supportive services are offered. These include vocational training, housing assistance, financial assistance, legal assistance, and medical assistance. Just as with detox, not everyone will need this part of treatment. However, it’s there for those who can benefit from it.

Your Questions

Still have questions?

Wondering if you need to quit?

If you have further questions about marijuana laws or marijuana addiction treatment, we invite you to ask them below. If you have any further insight or advice for people, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources:[1] NPR: California law would expunge many marijuana related crimes
[2] Cannabis Regulations in California State
[3] DUI penalties for California
[4] SHRM: Can CA Employers Still Test for Marijuana?
[5] NIDA: What are Marijuana’s Long Term Effects on the Brain?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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