California’s Weed Laws: Legal Amounts, Growing, & More

If you don’t live in California, you might be jealous of their cannabis laws, but it’s not a free-for-all there. We’ll look at how much you can possess and other important laws.

By Phil Dubley Last Updated: May 31, 2024
Last Updated: May 31, 2024

Few states are as closely related to cannabis as California. Not only was it the first state to legalize medical marijuana, but it also became a leading figure after the legalization of recreational use in 2016. But that doesn’t mean that marijuana is completely unregulated here.

Whether you buy it for recreational or medical use, there are some rules you need to follow. Most of these relate to large quantities and age-related restrictions, but going over the basics is never a bad idea. Here’s what you need to know. 

How Much Weed Can I Carry in California?

California’s Health and Safety Code dictates that the maximum possession allowed is 28.5 grams (approximately one ounce) of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. 

This applies to users over 21 who consume it on private property. 

You can also have up to six marijuana plants at your home — as long as you grow them for personal use. Each city may require specific growing conditions for your plants, so check beforehand.

Penalties for inappropriate consumption or possession may vary according to age, intent, or place where possession occurs. 

Possessing any quantity is illegal if you are under 18; the penalty is an infraction. There’s no penalty if you are over 18 and possess up to 28.5 grams [1, 2].

If you’re carrying more than the allowed amount for recreational use and are over 18, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. The same goes if you are near school grounds or if you have an intent to distribute.

What About Medicinal Marijuana?

These general rules apply differently for medicinal users since a physician’s note can grant you a higher possession or buying limit. 

For example, California’s medical marijuana program allows the purchase and possession of 8 ounces of medical marijuana per day. 

Medical marijuana users can get a Medical Marijuana Identification Card issued by the California Department of Public Health. This makes identification easier when medical users purchase larger amounts than the legal limit for adult users.

The Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program is a web-based registry for medical marijuana users that eases the verification process for law enforcement and shop owners alike. It authorizes its users to possess, grow, transport, and use medical marijuana within California.

What Are the Specifics of Weed Legality in California?

The law has some other specifics you need to be aware of. 

Even if you have less than 28.5 grams, some rules still apply and restrict your possession. 

If you want to transport cannabis, it must be in a sealed container or the trunk of your vehicle. Having an open container of cannabis while driving or riding in the passenger seat is also illegal, as well as having any paraphernalia with you.

The law indicates that it’s illegal to drive or ride a bike under the influence of cannabis. If officers suspect that you are driving under the influence, they can pull you over to conduct a sobriety test.

Cannabis consumption is allowed on private property only — if you rent, check your agreement — but it’s illegal in public, including parks, sidewalks, and residential or business areas such as restaurants or bars. It’s also illegal within 1000 feet of schools, daycares, and youth centers.

As a general rule, you can’t smoke weed in places where it’s illegal to smoke tobacco.

To start a cannabis business, you need to follow the Department of Cannabis Control’s (DCC) regulations and have a license. There might also be some local ordinances regarding marijuana business, so check the laws in your area. Some cities may even favor applicants to achieve a more equal market [3]. 

Apart from the laws regarding its consumption, cannabis businesses must follow the same rules that apply to any other business in California. This includes waste disposal, vehicle registration, and taxes, among others.

Can I Grow My Own Weed in California?

California’s government allows residents over 21 years old to grow up to six cannabis plants at home. 

You might need a permit or meet other requirements in your city, so contact local regulators before you begin. For example, they might ask you to keep the plants indoors.

You’ll have to get a license if you want to grow more than six plants or sell their buds.

The DCC regulates the cannabis business. If you want to start a cannabis business, you need to be aware of DCC regulations. These vary depending on your end goals, so read carefully.

Can I Cross States if I’m Carrying California Weed?

Cannabis is federally illegal, so you can’t cross state lines while carrying weed. 

This rule applies to any state. Even if the local government allows it, you won’t be able to leave your state with weed or fly with it.

Federal regulations indicate that cannabis products have to be grown and consumed in the same state. If you were to leave California with weed and try to get to another state with it, you could face federal criminal prosecution. 

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has different penalties depending on the amount of weed you are carrying. For example, if you have from 1 to 49 marijuana plants and it’s your first offense, the penalty would be not less than five years, and the fine could be up to $250,000. 

Never leave California without discarding your weed to avoid trouble; remember that the state’s legislation won’t apply elsewhere!

When Was Weed Legalized in California?

Weed has been entirely legal in California since November 8, 2016, when the recreational adult use of marijuana was legalized. 

Since then, the use, sale, and cultivation of recreational cannabis have been legal for adults over the age of 21. California was the first state to legalize cannabis and has a long history with the drug. 

It was cultivated for recreational use in 1895. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the drug had become heavily associated with immigrants and was seen as a threat to public safety.

As a consequence, the government passed several laws prohibiting cannabis use and possession in the following years. The criminalization of the drug and its negative perception would continue until the middle of the twentieth century.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the hippie movement popularized cannabis and brought attention to the drug. In 1964, the first US cannabis legalization group was formed in California. This resulted in the decriminalization of cannabis in California in 1975 — which reclassified the possession of one ounce to a misdemeanor, punishable with a $100 fine [4].

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 legalized the use, possession, and cultivation of cannabis for patients with a physician’s recommendation.

In 2011, California decriminalized marijuana possession. The possession of one ounce of cannabis or less became an infraction, with a maximum of a $100 fine and no mandatory court appearance or criminal record.

In 2014, California reclassified certain drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Finally, in 2016, California legalized recreational marijuana.

What’s the Situation Like On a Federal Level?

At the federal level, cannabis is illegal and subject to criminal law enforcement through the DEA.

Cannabis usage and possession are forbidden on federal lands, including national parks, as well as some other areas in California. For example, the federal government owns areas like Alcatraz Island and Ocean Beach, so you must check the jurisdiction of the place you are visiting beforehand. 

For the same reason, it is also illegal to transport cannabis to a different state. No matter if your destination also allows its consumption, you can’t take cannabis across state lines.

Since federal law prohibits cannabis use and possession, you might be subject to penalties from federal law enforcement. For example, TSA agents may confiscate your weed even if you’re flying within the state of California.

FAQs: Weed in California

Next, I’ll answer questions we often get about weed laws. 

1. How much weed can I buy in California?

You can buy up to 28.5 grams of weed for recreational use if you are over 21 years of age. You may also possess up to six plants at your house for personal use. If you have a medical license and are over 18 years old, you may be allowed to buy up to eight ounces of weed per day.

2. Where can I buy cannabis in California?

You can buy cannabis at any dispensary or licensed retail point in California. The retailer must have a license from the DCC. You can use the DCC license search to find a licensed retailer near you, from which you can either order online or visit.

3. Where can I use cannabis in California?

You can use cannabis only on private properties. You must avoid using it in public places, business or residential areas, government-owned land, or within 1000 feet of schools or daycares. Property owners may also ban its use. If you’re renting or staying at a hotel, check the rental agreement or rules that apply to that place.

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  1. NORML and The NORML Foundation (n.d.). California Laws and Penalties. Norml. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from
  2. City of Sacramento (n.d.). CANNABIS FOR PERSONAL USE. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from
  3. State of California (n.d.). DCC regulations. Department of Cannabis Control California. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from
  4. Gavel (n.d.). Timeline of Marijuana Laws in California. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from