California Cannabis Laws – History


Cannabis is legal in California for both medical and adult use.  California has no penalty for possessing 1 ounce or less of cannabis.  California was the first state in the US to enact a medical cannabis program. In 1996, voters enacted Proposition 215.  This measure was again strengthened in 2003 when Senate Bill 420 was enacted. Since that time, the industry has been created and supported on all levels through the participation of many not for profit collective and cooperative organizations.


California was the first state to attempt to decriminalize cannabis in 1972; however, that effort was unsuccessful. In 1975 California cannabis laws changed once again and from that point forward, possession of one ounce of cannabis was punishable as a misdemeanor and subject to a $100 fine.  This penalty for possession was further reduced in 2010  CA State Senate Bill 1449, which reduced the charge of possession of one ounce of cannabis or less, from a misdemeanor to an infraction —a maximum of a $100 fine and no mandatory court appearance or criminal record.

California Cannabis Laws – Penalties


  • 1 oz or less – No Penalty, No Fine, No Incarceration
  • 1 – 4 oz – Misdemeanor, $10,000 Max Fine, Max 1 year Incarceration
  • 4 oz or more – Felony, $50,000 Max Fine, Max 5 years Incarceration
  • Any amount within 500 feet of school grounds or rec. center – Felony, $50,000 Max Fine, Max 1 year Incarceration
  • Public consumption – Violation, $100 Max Fine, No Incarceration


  • Up to 6 plants with no more than 3 mature – Misdemeanor, No Fine, No Incarceration
  • 25 plants or more – Felony, $1,000 Max Fine, Max 5 years Incarceration
  • To a person under 19 who is 3 years or more younger than the seller – Felony, $100,000 Max Fine, Max 10 years Incarceration


  • Possession of 3g or less – No Penalty, $10,000 Max Fine, 0 – 1 year Incarceration
  • Possession of more than 3g – Felony, $50,000 Max Fine, 0 – 2 years Incarceration
  • Delivery, manufacture, or possessing with intent to distribute any amount – Felony, $100,000 Max Fine, 1 – 3 years years Incarceration

California Cannabis Business Laws

On February 21, 2016 the state of California introduced regulations that would effectively regulate the newly emerging commercial cannabis industry in the state. The new California cannabis laws for businesses are two fold. First, there are a set of regulations that set statutes and create governing bodies for regulation of the commercial cannabis industry in California. Secondly there are the details of applications and prerequisites for starting a cannabis business in California.

On February 24, 2016 applications for an California cannabis business license became available online.

California Cannabis Business Key Notes

  • California is the first state that does not differentiate between the medical and recreational cannabis industry. The cannabis laws in California are for a single industry.
  • Any municipality or community can ban any or all types of cannabis businesses.
  • Each business partner in an California marijuana business must be a state resident eligible for a Permanent Fund Dividend. This would typically mean having lived in California for at least one calendar year to qualify for a Permanent Fund Dividend.
  • Licenses will be tied directly to the physical location for the business.
  • There currently is no cap on the number of licenses that can be issued, or the number of licenses for a single individual or company.
  • Vertical integration is permitted.