Is Pot Legal in California?

California Pot Legalization

California is one of the most progressive states in the country. They were the first to legalize medical marijuana (“pot”) in the United States in 1996, allowing for the growth, possession, and consumption of marijuana, for certain medical situations, with a prescription from a physician.

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But what about for recreational use? In November 2016, the state of California passed Proposition 64, which legalized the growth, possession, and consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes. It allows anyone over the age of 21 to possess and use up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, and up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrate. 

Though marijuana use is now legal in California (as of 2020), there are still a few things you need to be concerned with. Not being aware of these issues may cause you to run into legal problems in the state.

How is Marijuana Legalized in California?

California allows anyone over the age of 21 to:

  • Possess, transport, purchase, consume or give away marijuana to anyone else over the age of 21. This only applies to amounts no more than one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana, or up to eight grams of marijuana concentrate. 

  • Possess, grow, harvest, or process no more than six marijuana plants at any residential address at any given time. This is provided that any amount of marijuana above one ounce is stored in a person’s private residence in a locked area, and cannot be seen from any public place.

    Marijuana can be grown inside of the residence or any outdoor structure that is on the presence of the person’s privately owned property that is fully enclosed and secured with a lock. 

Restrictions & Penalties

Although marijuana is legal to use and produce, by law, it is not allowed in the following locations:

  • Any public place: However, local governments may allow its use at legally permitted establishments. 

  • Any non-smoking area.

  • Any motorized vehicle. This includes a boat or an airplane. California does not allow for driving under the influence of marijuana as well unless you have a prescription for medical marijuana.

    While transporting marijuana from the dispensary to your residence, it must be in the original sealed container, with a legal label from the dispensary it was purchased from attached to the container. 

  • On the grounds of any school, childcare center, or daycare center

  • In the workplace

  • On rental properties: However, note that it is up to the property’s landlord to restrict or prohibit the use or consumption of marijuana on their property. 

The penalties for possessing or consuming marijuana may apply to minors under the age of 18 or those who possess or consume it in a restricted area or amount.  

  • For anyone under the age of 18, it is still considered illegal to possess or consume any form of marijuana. If caught, the consequences could include counseling, probation, and/or community service. (California law does not usually allow for fines or imprisonment for minors under the age of 18 for marijuana offenses.)

  • Anyone between the ages of 18 to 21, who are in the possession or consume marijuana, is still committing a misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines and possible jail time. This includes a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine—and up to 10 days in jail—for following offenses. 

  • Anyone over the age of 21 who possess more than 28.5 grams of marijuana is committing a misdemeanor offense as well, punishable by up six months in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.

  • A felony charge may be received if a person has multiple prior convictions for illegal marijuana possession or distribution. Prosecutors can charge persons with conspiracy to commit a felony if more than one person is involved in the commission or planning of the commission of the crime. 

  • Selling to or using a minor to sell marijuana is still illegal; doing so is a felony and punishable by imprisonment of three years or more. 

California vs. Federal Marijuana Laws

Though the state law of California has legalized marijuana, it cannot supersede federal law. Thus, marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law. Keep this in mind if you plan to consume marijuana in California. 

Many employers follow federal law when it comes to drug testing and drug-free workplace laws.

If you were to be tested for employment or testing while employed, and you were to test positive for marijuana, you could still face termination or refusal of employment by the employer. 

Testing positive can be an automatic dismissal or refusal of employment regardless of if you are using marijuana legally under the law or not.

There is also no distinction between having to have used or been under the influence while at work. (Source: LA Times)

In other words, if you use the night before and are tested the next day and test positive, there is currently no law that would protect you from being terminated or being refuse employment based on the positive test.

How Can I Buy Marijuana Legally?

The state of California has two types of dispensary licenses. The business can apply for an “A” license or an “M” license. 

  • Dispensaries with an “A” license can distribute marijuana to anyone over the age of 21 with a valid ID. 
  • Dispensaries with an “M” license, can distribute to anyone over the age of 18, who has a medical marijuana card. 

Some dispensaries have filed for both licenses and can sell both medical and recreational marijuana. 

There are currently only 87 legal marijuana dispensaries in the state of California. All other dispensaries in the state are operating without a license and are considered illegal. Using these dispensaries can still result in being charged with a crime. 

Legal dispensaries are also allowed to use delivery services for the sale of marijuana. The type of license they have will depend on who they can deliver to. 

Purchasing CBD

Use of CBD products is legal under federal law in the United States, though certain states have the right to restrict the use of CBD under their own laws. 

CBD in California is legal for both medical and recreational use. It’s also important to note that the CBD products in California may contain THC as well. 

The only restriction on CBD usage in California is that it cannot be added to any food, including dog food. The FDA must approve it first, although this has not yet happened at this time. (Source: Legislature California Gov)

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, as of 2020, the use and possession of pot in California is legal.

However, there are some situations where this may lead to a penalty, such as if you are under the age of 21, selling the substances to a minor, or are caught having over 28.5 grams in your possession.  

There are also restrictions on areas where you cannot possess or be under the influence of marijuana, such as school properties, childcare centers, or public spaces.

You may also be charged with a DUI if you are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. 

Finally, it’s important to remember that while it is legal to consume marijuana in California, it is still illegal under federal law.

Many employers in the state of California still follow federal law, meaning you could lose or be refused a job for using and testing positive for marijuana use on a drug test. 

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