Now that recreational marijuana is legal in California, what are the rules for growing and using it? The answers are changing, and they depend on where you live or partake.
Buying, using, and distributing medicinal marijuana has been legal in California since 1996 (see our article “Medicinal Marijuana Laws” for more).In 2015, a set of new California laws created a licensing and regulatory structure for medicinal marijuana production and distribution, but those regulations were still under development when Prop 64 legalized recreational marijuana in California.
Prop 64 also requires a licensing and regulatory structure, this time for the recreational marijuana business. Faced with the possibility of two parallel regulatory schemes, in July 2017 California merged the medicinal and recreational requirements. The new law is called the “Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act” (“MAUCRSA”). (Read NORML’s summary here: www.canorml.org/Cal_NORML_Guide_to_AUMA.)
State regulations for both medicinal and recreational purposes are now finalized, and production and distribution licenses are being issued. You can check licenses at the Bureau of Cannabis Control website. Local cities and counties continue to regulate medicinal and recreational marijuana growth and distribution as well. Unlicensed adults can give cannabis products as a gift but unlicensed marijuana sale is still illegal.
Personal use and cultivation
What does this mean for individuals who want to enjoy their new recreational options? Right now it is legal for adults (over 21) to:
- Smoke or otherwise consume marijuana/cannabis
- Possess up to 28.5 grams (1 ounce) of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana.
- Grow up to six plants within a private home as long as the area is locked and not visible from a public place. Cities and counties may regulate growth conditions.
Licenses are beginning to be issued to recreational marijuana retailers, including a number in Sacramento.
Patients with a medical recommendation can still grow plants and purchase products for their own medicinal use. Some dispensaries have ended medical distribution in favor of recreational, meaning even patients under 21 cannot purchase there, so if you a patient but under 21, check before visiting.
Smoking or ingesting marijuana is prohibited in public places; smoking is prohibited anywhere smoking tobacco is illegal, and near schools, day care center, and youth centers when children are present.
Local rules on cultivation for personal use
All cities in Sacramento County, as well as unincorporated areas, ban outdoor growing of marijuana. Growing indoors for personal use is restricted to personal residences, with different limits and regulations in different areas. Here’s a quick summary of the quantities permitted in different cities as of May 2019:
- City of Sacramento
- No more than 6 marijuana plants, regardless of number of occupants; must be in a single, locked room or structure (Sacramento City Code § 8.132.040)
- Sacramento County
- No more than 6 marijuana plants, regardless of number of occupants; must be in a single, locked room or structure (Sacramento County Code § 6.88.050) (Note: this was amended in March 2019 by SCC 1637; previously up to 9 plants were permitted. The online version of the code has yet been updated as of May 2019)
- Citrus Heights
- Medicinal: limited to 50 square feet and 300 cubic feet inside a residence, 100 square feet and 600 cubic feet in a secure structure on residential property (Citrus Heights Code of Ordinances § 50-702) Recreational: up to 6 marijuana plants (Citrus Heights Code of Ordinances § 50-802)
- Elk Grove
- No more than 6 marijuana plants (Elk Grove Municipal Code § 23.83)
- No more than 6 marijuana plants, limited to 50 square feet and 10 feet in height (Folsom Municipal Code § 17.114.040) Permit required (Folsom Municipal Code § 17.114.050)
- No more than 6 marijuana plants (Galt Municipal Code § 18.58.030)
- Rancho Cordova
- No more than 6 marijuana plants; city imposes registration requirement and tax (Rancho Cordova Municipal Code §§ 6.90.030, 3.85)
The Cannifornian website has a great tool for quick reference to the ordinances in all California cities: Local Cannabis Laws Database. County information can be found at the California State Association of Counties and the CanniBusinessLaw website.
Local rules on dispensaries and businesses
Most Sacramento-area cities, as well as the county, prohibit dispensaries and all commercial marijuana activity.
The City of Sacramento currently allows dispensaries, cultivation, nonvolatile manufacturing and testing in specific zones within the city, and city-issued permits are now available. More information is available on the website of the Department of Finance’s Office of Cannabis Policy & Enforcement (http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Finance/Revenue/Sacramento-Marijuana-Information/Business-Information).
These rules are still changing. To check on the most current ordinances, visit the website or contact the city clerk of your municipality.
Marijuana use, possession, and distribution is still illegal under federal law. 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. This complicates many aspects of the business, including leasing property, banking and complying with tax law, in addition to the potential for prosecution. In January 2019 then-nominee Attorney General William Barr stated in writing that he had no intention of pursuing action against businesses complying with state laws. There are efforts at the federal level to prevent federal law enforcement from taking action against people and businesses in states that have legalized marijuana, notably the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.
The state of California has a “Cannabis Portal” on the web, as “a one-stop shop for all things related to the state’s effort to regulate the cannabis industry.”
You can also keep up with developments in cannabis law by following websites such as CaNORML’s page on “Local Medical Marijuana Cultivation & Possession Guidelines in California” (bit.ly/1g10noy), the Cannifornian’s city list (bayareane.ws/2EfBxls), or this county list from Cannabusiness Law (bit.ly/2LTPwDu).
Other good sources of current information include:
- The Cannifornian tracks developments in local regulations affecting the cannabis business (thecannifornian.com/cannabis-business/)
- CannaLaw Blog (cannalawblog.com/)
- Marijuana Lawyer Blog (marijuanalawyerblog.com/).
- Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform (typepad.com/marijuana_law/).
August 24, 2017 (updated May 22, 2019)