Often portrayed as the most liberal state when it comes to both medical and recreational marijuana, California was the place where the current boom of the cannabis industry began. The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club –founded in 1992- was the first public marijuana dispensary to open its doors in the country. However, despite certainly being a place where cannabis consumption is legal, there are some restrictions consumers must take into account to ensure they comply with the relevant laws and regulations.
Medical Cannabis: The Pioneer State
The first efforts towards the legalization of medical cannabis in the United States began to take place in the city of San Francisco during the early 1990s. It was in 1996, however, that real legislative changes were implemented statewide. As a result of the approval of Proposition 215, California legalized the usage of cannabis products for patients suffering from chronic pain, AIDS, arthritis and other conditions.
While the Supreme Court of California did not impose any limits on the amount of cannabis a patient could possess on their private residence, the plant could only be accessed with a medical prescription or a recommendation from a licensed doctor.
The fact that California decided to completely legalize the usage of marijuana for medical purposes came as a direct contradiction to federal law, under which cannabis remained a Schedule 1 drug. After the 2018 United States Farm Bill was passed, several hemp-derived products were removed from the list of controlled substances, following the efforts started in California to expand the access of cannabis to patients who would benefit from it.
Under state law, individuals over 21 years old are legally allowed to possess a maximum of 28 grams of leafy marijuana and 8 grams of cannabis concentrate. The state’s marijuana ticketing chart provides different penalties and prosecution schemes depending on the age and amount of marijuana products a person has under their possession.
For individuals under 18 years old having less than 28,5 grams of leafy cannabis, punishments are usually limited to an economic infraction and a number of hours of drug education, counseling and/or community service. On the other hand, individuals between 18 and 21 years old can be fined with a maximum of USD$100 for having small amounts of cannabis products.
Under the state’s marijuana ticketing chart, the possession of more than 28 grams of leafy cannabis is illegal for anyone regardless of their age. For individuals under 18 years old, sanctions include counseling and drug education sessions as well as community service hours and other applicable infractions. The possession of more than 28 grams of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, which generates a criminal record and therefore is visible on any background check.
The strictest penalties for people found in possession or illegal amounts of cannabis products include prison terms of up to 6 months in a county jail, as well as fees which can amount to thousands of dollars in penalties and assessment bills.