Recreational Marijuana in California: Frequently Asked Questions | Marijuana

Recreational Marijuana in California: Frequently Asked Questions


“Now that Prop 64 has passed, what comes next?”

On Election Tuesday, California voted in favor of passing Proposition 64, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

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“I think it’s the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana in the United States,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. “I think it will have repercussions internationally, particularly in Mexico and Latin America. And there are a million people who tomorrow can begin the process of clearing their records.”

“Can I grow marijuana at home?”

If you are a California resident and over the age of 21, you may possess up to an ounce of processed cannabis and six plants at home legally, effective immediately.

Additionally, there are important changes to the California criminal code with respect to growing cannabis. Going forward, law enforcement may no longer use the perceived odor of marijuana as probable cause to expand their searches; this new change also applies to the presence of drug paraphernalia, which can no longer serve as the sole reasoning for a search.

“Marijuana is now going to be a legal commodity like alcohol,” explained Tamar Todd, Drug Policy Action Legal Director. “By itself, marijuana itself is not considered contraband so the mere presence of somebody having it is not grounds to stop, search, frisk and detain somebody.”

If you’re interested in starting your own home grow and want more information, we’re here to help. Check out our easy-to-follow Grow Guide series to get started.

“How much concentrate can I legally carry?”

Besides the ounce of cannabis flower you may legally possess, you may also have up to eight grams of concentrated marijuana, including hash, kief, or oil, on your person.

“Can I smoke marijuana in public?”

Absolutely not, and this includes while you are driving. Public consumption of cannabis is still prohibited and, if caught violating, can carry a penalty of $100. Should a minor get caught smoking marijuana, they will be enrolled in a mandatory four-hour drug education class, counseling, or up to 10 hours of community service.

Prop 64 also spells out that smoking marijuana is prohibited anywhere where smoking tobacco is already outlawed, including restaurants and bars. Smoking within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care where children are currently on hand is already illegal, so the law now also applies to marijuana. If caught violating this set of laws, you can expect a fine of up to $250.

“Where can I purchase marijuana products legally if I don’t have a doctor’s recommendation?”

Technically, you cannot at this time. While Prop 64’s possession and cultivation provisions go into effect immediately, the first retail cannabis shops most likely won’t be open and operational until early 2018.

As the law is currently written, medical dispensaries cannot legally sell to recreational customers who do not possess a “rec.” The same goes for growers, who must wait for proper licensure from California before they can sell their harvest to another individual. However, growers can give their plants away for free or share the fruits of their labor with friends, they just can’t charge them money for it.

If you’re looking for a great way to transfer weed back and forth among friends without getting in trouble, may we suggest a smoking game?

“Can I purchase my cannabis from Nevada, Oregon, or Washington and bring it back home with me?”

You can absolutely head to those states and purchase cannabis products, but you won’t be able to bring them back over the California border legally. Because of marijuana’s Schedule 1 federal status, it is strictly prohibited to bring products over state lines.

“Will there be temporary provisions in place so adults over 21 can use medical dispensaries?”

There is a precedent for it based on how other states operated in similar situations.

Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta said on this matter, “We’re in a period of massive transformation in cannabis policy.”

Bonta went on the record saying fellow legislators will contemplate a temporary fix that would allow medical dispensaries to serve recreational clientele. Though it hasn’t been made clear at this point how such a system would operate, Banta suggests that a temporary license could be issued for a short-term basis.

“We have to consider honoring the spirit of the law and making it work,” Bonta explained. “If it’s legal to use but there is nowhere to buy, then I think we could consider a special, conditional, time-restrained license that could be operative for a short period of time while we bridge into the new regime that Proposition 64 envisions. That is definitely possible.”

“What protections are in place for those who are under 21 years of age?”

One of Prop 64’s main objectives is keeping cannabis out of children’s reach. Anyone under 21 who wishes to have access to cannabis must obtain a valid doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana.

Retail marijuana shops are prohibited from opening or operating within 1,000 feet of any school whose scope is between Kindergarten and 12th grade, day-care centers, or playgrounds.

Additionally, products are strictly prohibited from being marketed in a way that appeals to children, including packaging designs that are similar to popular snack and candy brands. All packaging on marijuana products must be child-resistant to maintain compliance.

There are additional marketing restrictions related to the advertising of cannabis; ads utilizing “symbols, language, music, gestures, or cartoon characters” that appeal to kids are strictly banned.

“Will there be marijuana commercials on TV or radio?”

Because television and radio continue to be regulated by the FCC, and the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, stations may not broadcast advertising for marijuana products. However, Prop 64 does have language in place should the DEA lift its ban on cannabis that would allow for ads to be shown. To avoid marketing to children, any broadcast, radio, print, or digital marketing would only be shown in areas where at least 71.6 percent of the viewers are reasonably expected to be older than 21; borrowed from a similar alcohol statute.

“Will the state of California make a lot of money from retail marijuana sales?”

State officials project that once California’s retail marijuana ecosystem is fully operational, it could generate over $1 billion annually for what is already the world’s sixth largest economy. The infrastructure, including the licensing and tax collection procedures, will take some time to build out. California isn’t expected to begin licensing and collecting taxes on retail marijuana sales until January of 2018.

Once retail cannabis shops are fully up and running, consumers will pay a 15% sales tax on marijuana products, roughly half of what Colorado (28 percent) and Washington (37 percent) residents must pay at their retail stores.

In addition to the excise tax on sales, growers will pay a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce of processed flower, or $2.75 per ounce of leaves.

“How will all of California’s marijuana tax revenue be distributed?”

The tax funds collected from retail marijuana shops will first be utilized in the maintenance, administration, and enforcement of Prop 64. Everything after that will be distributed as follows:

  • $2 million per year to the UC San Diego Center for Medical Cannabis Research to study medical marijuana.
  • $10 million per year for 11 years for public California universities to research and evaluate the implementation and impact of Proposition 64. Researchers would make policy-change recommendations to the California Legislature and California Governor.
  • $3 million annually for five years to the Department of the California Highway Patrol for developing protocols to determine whether a vehicle driver is impaired due to marijuana consumption.
  • $10 million, increasing each year by $10 million until settling at $50 million in 2022, for grants to local health departments and community-based nonprofits supporting “job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services to address barriers to reentry, and linkages to medical care for communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies.”

Beyond those destinations, surplus tax revenue would be doled out as such:

  • 60 percent to youth programs, including drug education, prevention, and treatment.
  • 20 percent to prevent and alleviate environmental damage from illegal marijuana producers.
  • 20 percent to programs designed to reduce driving under the influence of marijuana and a grant program designed to reduce negative impacts on health or safety resulting from the proposition.

“If I have a marijuana charge on my record, will Prop 64 be retroactive?”

One of the most exciting benefits of Prop 64 is its ability to wipe the slate clean for some people. Individuals with prior marijuana convictions on their record will be able to petition the California court system to give their case another look. If the crime the individual committed would now be considered legal, an expungement could be in order.

Michael Cindrich, Executive Director of San Diego NORML, commented on the exciting news.

“For example, if your conviction was for cultivating less than six plants (in your house), now that six plants is legal, you can have that conviction wiped out,” Cindrich explained. “If (the conviction) was a felony but is now a misdemeanor, you can have your charge and your record changed.”

“Is industrial hemp legal now, too?”

YES, finally! Buried in all of the other news to come out of California last night was the announcement that industrial hemp would once again be legal to produce. California’s Department of Food and Agriculture will oversee and regulate the industrial hemp portion of Prop 64.

“It’s a little more under the radar,” Todd clarified, “but especially for a state like California, it’s more significant than it was for states like Washington or Colorado because we have so much agriculture potential for it.”

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Used to write about music for XXL, Elevator, Complex, Genius, and a few other outlets. Follow @LongLiveTheDuke on Twitter if you'd like to read way fewer words by me.


  1. Wow I think Prop 64 was really though out to the point Cali. Will benefit and so shall their economy. As far as the Law violations Prop 64 even goes further that most states that mad it legal. I can’t wait for it to finally reach out east towards my state where I hope the legislators will look at this as a chance to end the WAR on Marijuana.

    • nothing has changed as far as work-related drug testing and rules go. Not even if you have a med card, supreme court of california shot that down in Ross vs. RagingWire Telecommunications (2008)

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