Can I Legally Smoke Marijuana in California?




On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, The Adult Use of Marijuana act (full text here), joining Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. At 62 pages, Proposition 64 is a long, complicated piece of legislation that both introduces a host of new marijuana-related laws and regulations, as well as modifies a number of others. Here’s a brief look at what’s important to know about Proposition 64 right now.

  • When does Proposition 64 go into effect?

Effective immediately, it is now legal in California for adults 21 years of age or older to possess, and privately smoke or ingest, up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana, and up to 8 grams of “concentrated cannabis” (such as hash and hash oil). “Possess” includes processing, purchasing, transporting, obtaining and giving away (to persons 21 and older) marijuana in the above mentioned quantities. Possession of marijuana accessories is also permitted, notwithstanding the purchase and sales restrictions discussed below.

Additionally, adults can grow up to 6 marijuana plants in their homes. You cannot, however, manufacture concentrated cannabis using a “volatile solvent,” like propane or butane, without a license.

There is an important catch in the new law regarding buying and selling marijuana. Under Proposition 64, marijuana can only be legally purchased from a licensed dispensary. The new law requires the state to begin issuing dispensary licenses no later than January 1, 2018, but the state is not expected to begin issuing them before late 2017. Until that happens, purchasing and selling marijuana for recreational purposes remains illegal.

  • So, how can I buy marijuana in the meantime?

Unless you have a medical marijuana recommendation from a licensed physician, you can’t. Anyone currently growing marijuana may legally share their harvest or a plant clone with others, but in doing so, no money can exchange hands. Until, that is, dispensaries are licensed, up and running.

  • Where can I smoke marijuana or consume marijuana products?

Only in private spaces, like your home or the home of a friend. Marijuana use remains illegal in public places (unless allowed by local ordinance), and wherever smoking tobacco is prohibited, such as theaters and restaurants. In addition, you cannot legally possess, smoke or ingest a marijuana product on the grounds of a school, day care center or youth center while children are present, or smoke marijuana within 1000 feet of a school, day care center or youth center while children or present, unless you are in a private residence.

  • How about in my car?

Absolutely not. It remains illegal to smoke or ingest marijuana or a marijuana product while driving or riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft or other vehicle used for transportation. Also, you may not possess an open container or open package of marijuana in a motor vehicle or other vehicle, as described above.

  • Crimes and misdemeanors.

Under Proposition 64, a number of marijuana-related felonies have been downgraded to misdemeanors, such as possession with intent to sell to an adult. Selling to a minor, though, remains a felony. Most importantly, selling marijuana and related products without a license, although a misdemeanor, can mean stiff penalties and even jail time.

  • What about local authorities?

Proposition 64 does not restrict local governments from passing ordinances regarding a number of marijuana-related issues. For example, local governments may place restrictions on the personal cultivation (planting, harvesting, drying, processing, etc.) of marijuana. Local authorities may also regulate commercial marijuana activities, such as banning dispensaries and other commercially-related transactions, such as outdoor cultivation.

  • Other points of interest.

If you are found to be in lawful possession of marijuana (in an amount not exceeding the quantities discussed above), law enforcement may not confiscate your marijuana and may not search or detain you as a result of that lawful possession.

Also, Proposition 64 does not provide individuals with any protections against denial of or termination from a job for testing positive for marijuana.  In other words, it is still legal for an employer to have a no marijuana policy, and can require drug testing to enforce that policy.

Proposition 64 is a complicated piece of legislation, covering the subjects discussed in this article in greater detail. It is still possible to run into legal problems by using, possessing, or growing marijuana.  If you find yourself in trouble with the law, and are looking for an experienced, reliable criminal defense attorney who will provide you with the best defense available, schedule an appointment on this web site or call to set up a time to meet and discuss your case.