Recreational Marijuana in California: What Are the Rules?

recreational marijuana in california rules

Legal recreational marijuana is a full reality in California, a little over a year since voters approved Prop 64 directing officials to make it happen and start writing the rules.

Dispensaries throughout the state opened their doors in January 2018 to recreational users over 21, despite the reactionary voices in the executive branch — namely U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — issuing hollow threats to strangle the industry in its cradle. However, as of January 2018, there are almost no recreational marijuana dispensaries in California’s largest city: Los Angeles.

This is due to major complications with permitting; dispensaries must undergo expensive and time consuming application processes in order to be granted a permit to sell recreational cannabis within the city. City officials state that the delay is because they want to “do it right”. Fair enough. We’ll take what we can get.

Regulations for personal use limit the amount you can possess, prohibit unsealed bags of pot in vehicles, proscribe fines and punishments for people under 21 caught using, and for people who provide weed to under-age kids.

Rules for Weed in California: What’s legal and what’s not?

The state government spent 2017 converting its Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation to the new Bureau of Cannabis Control, as well as drawing up regulations to govern the “adult use” — legalese for “recreational.”  The rules lay out parameters for legal taxation, sale, production, consumption, and distribution throughout the state.

As an individual, you’re allowed to possess 28.5 grams (slightly more than an ounce) of whole cannabis (flower) or 8 grams of wax or concentrated marijuana.

recreational marijuana in california rulesHere are some highlights of the rules for individual cannabis consumers.

Can you drive while smoking marijuana/ being high?

Nope. Nor should you.

It’s difficult to determine whether a motorist is stoned, given that pot chemicals can appear in blood tests for weeks after your last use. That’s why the California Legislature earmarked a few million per year in weed excise tax revenue to go to research and development efforts by the California Highway Patrol to develop an accurate field sobriety test for cannabis.

recreational marijuana in california rules 2If you do get caught high on the highway, you face potential fines and jail time, just like with an alcohol DUI. In fact, if you’re carrying weed with you in the car, it has to be sealed in plastic. If it isn’t, you could face the same kind of legal trouble as you would driving around with an open beer.

Can I fly with marijuana in California?

Only if you have under 1 ounce in your possession and are traveling within California.

recreational marijuana in california rulesThere are rare cases where you can bring your sweet California sinsemilla to another state (like to NV, who has a reciprocity agreement with CA), but you should check in on the local state laws before bringing a potentially illegal substance to that state. When in doubt, don’t travel with marijuana.

Can I smoke weed at the dispensary or in public?


Don’t look for Amsterdam-style pot bars any time soon. You can’t smoke or consume cannabis on premises at pot shops, in restaurants or bars, or on public streets or parks — that includes vape pens. If a cop catches you, it’s a misdemeanor charge that comes with a fine. And they’ll snag your stash. Yoink!

Some spots, however, are setting themselves up through legal paperwork as private clubs. You pay a fee to be a member, and you can come in and socialize with other members, smoking or consuming marijuana you bring on your own.

recreational marijuana in california rules 3This strategy is in a legal gray area, however, and we have yet to see if the Bureau of Cannabis Control will leave these places alone or try to take them to court. It’s likely that such establishments won’t see the light of day unless they can assure patrons will not be leaving under the influence.

For now, stay home to get stoned or consider edibles if you want to re-up while you’re on the go. You might also want to consider creating some THC E-Juice if you’re looking for a way to smoke on the go, without spreading the smell that flower and vape-pens can emit.

What if I already have a medical marijuana card?

Hang onto it.

Medical consumers are spared the 15 percent excise tax that recreational users have to pay. Furthermore, though it’s extremely unlikely individual users would face federal legal consequences from the ultra-conservative Justice Department, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra layer of insulation. If you need a medical card, check out this article.

How much tax do I have to pay on recreational marijuana?

Medicinal and Adult-Use of Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) is the 2017 legislation that contains all the rules related to California’s administration of legal weed. The following is a run-down of taxes imposed, according to the act:

A 15 percent excise tax is imposed upon purchasers of cannabis and cannabis products. Retailers of cannabis and cannabis products are required to collect the 15 percent excise tax from the purchaser based on the average market price of any retail sale and pay it to their cannabis distributor.

recreational marijuana in california rules 4A cultivation tax is imposed upon cannabis cultivators on all harvested cannabis that enters the commercial market. Cannabis cultivators are required to pay the cultivation tax to either their distributor or their manufacturer. The rate of the cultivation tax is:

  • $9.25 per dry-weight ounce of cannabis flowers that enter the commercial market, and
  • $2.75 per dry-weight ounce of cannabis leaves that enter the commercial market.

Can I grow marijuana for personal use?

When PROP 64 was passed by California voters in November of 2016, it was stated that users could have up to 6 flowering plants at a time, on their personal land, and only for personal consumption. Many local ordinances have forbidden outdoor cultivation, so be sure to check with your local government before planting.

recreational marijuana in california rules 7It is legal to give away (not accept payment in any form) up to 1oz. of marijuana as well. Bringing cannabis to a party can now be the new “six-pack” without landing you in prison.

Is it still okay for employers to test for marijuana on a drug test?

Unfortunately, employers are still legally permitted to test for and discriminate against (i.e. not hire you or fire you) marijuana use. Similar to alcohol, they may also discriminate for showing up to work intoxicated.

recreational marijuana in california rules 6The same applies for medical marijuana patients with a valid recommendation. Prop 64 made progress, but this is certainly one the annoying nonsensical rules that we’ll have to deal with for the time being.

Where can I buy recreational marijuana in California?

You can buy recreational marijuana in California online through WoahStork— the online cannabis marketplace. All you have to do is upload a photo of your ID and you’ll be verified to purchase cannabis from over 100 different cannabis dispensaries in California! Delivery or pickup options are available.

AG Attacks Legal Weed Mostly as Political Theater

With timing seemingly designed to share headline space with the opening of the legal market in California, Sessions announced his lifting of the Obama-era directive to federal prosecutors to lay off licensed weed vendors is states where it’s legal (The Cole Memo).

Pot is still illegal under federal law — it’s a Schedule I controlled substance as outlined in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. It’s Schedule I designation means, legally, that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and less dangerous than cocaine. This remains the law, despite scientific evidence and strong statements from the medical community refuting these assertions.

Some observers view Sessions’ pronouncement as largely symbolic, as the U.S. attorneys for individual districts have discretion over what cases to pursue.

These appointees in districts where pot is legal — California, Colorado and other states — have mostly issued muted, non-responses to the announcement, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have spoken out against Sessions’ attacks on the legal weed industry.

In fact, if Congress carries over budget language from the last federal spending plan, it will continue to prohibit the Justice Department from using any of its budget to target medical cannabis producers, knocking some of the teeth out Sessions’ new directive.


Recreational Marijuana in California Rules REFERENCES:

Medicinal and Adult-Use of Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA)

California State Law


“Trump administration drops Obama-era easing of marijuana prosecutions”

Sarah N. Lynch


Jan. 4, 2017

“Your Guide to California’s New Recreational Marijuana Rules”
Jessica P. Ogilvie

Los Angeles Magazine
Dec. 20, 2017

About Nicco Reggente, PhD 167 Articles
Nicco is the co-founder and CEO of WoahStork and Strain Genie-- two companies dedicated to bringing to life his passion of bringing personalized medicine to the cannabis industry. Nicco received his PhD from UCLA in cognitive neuroscience with a focus on machine learning applied to neuroimaging datasets. He previously received two B.As from NYU in Psychology and Philosophy.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.