In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, making it the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Health & Safety Code, section 11362.5), was approved by 55.6% of voters and decriminalized the cultivation and use of medical marijuana by seriously ill individuals who receive a state-licensed physician’s recommendation. Currently, a qualified patient or primary caregiver may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and maintain no more than six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants, unless they have a doctor's recommendation that this quantity does not meet their medical needs. The amount of marijuana that patients may possess and/or cultivate is also regulated locally and varies by city and county.
The California Department of Public Health established the Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program, a voluntary program which issues medical marijuana cards. In 2004, California’s medical marijuana law was amended by Senate Bill 420, which added additional protections to the Compassionate Use Act. In 2015, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (which is comprised of three bills: AB 266, AB 243, and SB 643) was enacted to establish a licensing and regulatory framework for the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana in California. The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act is expected to become fully implemented by January 1, 2018.
The California Department of Public Health’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP) created a State-authorized Medical Marijuana ID Card and verification database to be used by law enforcement and the public. It verifies a patient or primary caregiver’s authorization to possess, grow, transport, and/or use medical marijuana within California. Participation by patients and primary caregivers in the identification card program is voluntary. The verification website is located at http://mmic.cdph.ca.gov.
You will need to fill out an Application, which can be downloaded here. You must reside in the California county where the application is submitted. You will need to provide the following current documentation with your application:
You must apply in person at your County’s Program. There you will be asked to:
The state fee for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card application is currently $66 per card (or $33 for Medi-Cal patients). Individual counties also have fees that vary by county. Please contact your County Program to find out what the total cost for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card is in your county.
California Department of Public Health
Public Health Policy and Research Branch
Attention: Medical Marijuana Program Unit
P.O. Box 997377
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377
Telephone: (916) 552-8600
Fax: (916) 440-5591
California currently does not have a state-wide registry program for dispensaries, which are regulated at the city and county level. When the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act is fully implemented (expected to happen by January 01, 2018) the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulations will be responsible for regulating dispensaries. Meanwhile, dispensary owners are expected to obtain a Seller’s Permit from the Board of Equalization and file Articles of Incorporation under the Corporations or Food and Agricultural Code. Also, depending on the local ordinances for the county or city the dispensary is located in, you may be required to obtain a business license and/or other permits.
Under the Medical Marijuana Program, a qualified patient or primary caregiver may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and maintain no more than six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants. If a qualified patient or primary caregiver has a doctor's recommendation that this quantity does not meet the qualified patient's medical needs, the qualified patient or primary caregiver may possess an amount of marijuana consistent with the patient's needs. Counties and cities may retain or enact medical marijuana guidelines allowing qualified patients or primary caregivers to exceed these state limits.
Once the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act is fully implemented (which is expected to happen by January 01, 2018) the California Department of Food and Agriculture will regulate Medical Marijuana Cultivation.
Governor Brown signed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act into law on October 09, 2015, and it became effective on January 01, 2016. The Act, composed of 3 bills (AB 266, AB 243, and SB 643) established a licensing and regulatory framework for the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution, and sale of medical cannabis in the State of California.
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act established the Medical Cannabis Cultivation Program within the California Department of Food and Agriculture to license cultivators, establish conditions under which indoor and outdoor cultivation may occur, establish a track and trace program for reporting the movement of medical cannabis items through the distribution chain, and assist other state agencies in protecting the environment and public health.
Examples of requirements under the MMRSA include submission of fingerprint images to the Department of Justice, evidence of the legal right to occupy and use the proposed location as a cultivation site, submission of a detailed description of business operating procedures, and obtaining and maintaining a valid seller’s permit.
The MMRSA tasks the following California Departments with establishing regulations for the medical cannabis industry:
It is anticipated that licenses will begin being issued under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act on Jan. 1, 2018.
Assembly Bill 266
Assembly Bill 243
Senate Bill 643
Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, was approved by 55.6% of voters and decriminalized the cultivation and use of medical marijuana by seriously ill individuals who have a doctor’s recommendation. It was the first ballot initiative in the United States to decriminalize medical marijuana.
On January 1, 2004, the California legislature enacted SB 420 to clarify Proposition 215. It states that a patient’s medical records must contain written documentation by the attending physician that the patient has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition and that the medicinal use of cannabis is appropriate. A “serious medical condition is defined to include: AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine, persistent muscle spasms (multiple sclerosis), seizures, severe nausea, and any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities or if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health.”
Currently, California law does not allow for recreational marijuana use. This may change if the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) is approved by voters in the November 2016 General Election (see info about the AUMA below). The following penalties and fines are for the non-medical use of marijuana in California. Refer to CALIFORNIA MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAWS for information about medical marijuana laws in California.
|28.5 grams or less||infraction||N/A||
|28.5 grams or less, over 18 years, and occurred on school grounds||misdemeanor||10 days||
|28.5 grams or less, under 18 years||misdemeanor||10 days*||
|More than 28.5 grams||misdemeanor||6 mos||
|With Intent to Distribute|
|Any amount||felony||16 mos - 3 years||
|*Detention center for 2nd offense|
|Sale or Delivery|
|Sale or import of Any amount||felony||2 - 4 years||
|Gift of 28.5 grams or more||felony||2 - 4 years||
|Gift of 28.5 grams or less||misdemeanor||N/A||
|Over 18 to a minor 14-17 years old||felony||3 - 5 years||
|Over 18 to a minor under 14 years old||felony||3 - 7 years||
|Any amount||felony||16 mos - 3 years||
|Hash & Concentrates|
|Possession with intent to sell||Felony||16 mos – 3 years||
|Unauthorized manufacture||Felony||16 mos - 3 years||
|Chemical manufacture||Felony||3 - 7 years||
|Sale, delivery, possession with intent, and manufacture with intent to sell||misdemeanor||6 mos||
|Vehicles and other property may be seized for controlled substance violations.|
|Using a minor in the unlawful sale or transport of marijuana is a felony punishable by 3-7 years imprisonment. Inducing a minor to use marijuana is also a felony punishable by 3-7 years imprisonment.|
|Any violation of the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act results in a fine up to $150.|
|A person who participates in the illegal marketing of marijuana is liable for civil damages.|
|It is a misdemeanor to loiter in a public place with the intent to commit certain controlled substances offenses.|
|A controlled substance conviction can result in suspension of driving privileges.|
On November 08, 2016, California will be voting on the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, also known as "The Adult Use of Marijuana Act" or AUMA. If passed, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act would:
State Legalization of Marijuana-Related Activities. Under the measure, individuals age 21 or over could legally possess, use, sell, transport, process, and cultivate marijuana under state law. However, certain marijuana-related activities would remain illegal. For example, it would remain unlawful for individuals to operate a motor vehicle while under the impairment of marijuana or provide marijuana to individuals under the age of 21.
Regulation of Commercial Marijuana Activities. This measure changes the name of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation to the Bureau of Marijuana Control and grants it additional regulatory authority. Specifically, under the measure, the bureau, as well as other state agencies (such as DPH and DFA), would have the authority to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, distribution, and sales of marijuana for recreational purposes. This would be in addition to their existing authority to regulate medical marijuana. The division of regulatory responsibilities among these state agencies would be similar to that under the recent legislation related to medical marijuana. Individuals or organizations engaging in commercial cultivation, testing, processing, distribution, or sales of marijuana would be required to obtain a license from the appropriate state agency.
Taxation of Commercial Marijuana Sales. The measure states that existing state and local sales taxes are to be applied to the sale of recreational marijuana products. In addition, the measure places an excise tax of 15 percent on the retail sale of marijuana products. The measure also places an excise tax on the cultivation of marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of dried marijuana flowers and $2.75 per ounce of dried marijuana leaves. However, the measure authorizes the state Board of Equalization to annually adjust the tax rate for leaves to reflect fluctuations in the relative price of marijuana flowers to marijuana leaves. The measure also allows the board to establish other categories of marijuana (such as frozen marijuana) for tax purposes and specifies that these categories would be taxed at their value relative to marijuana flowers. Beginning in 2020, the cultivation tax would be adjusted annually for inflation. The measure exempts from the sales and use tax marijuana sold for medical purposes provided the consumer possesses a valid government issued identification card certifying that they are using marijuana pursuant to a physician’s recommendation.
Revenues collected from any marijuana excise tax, as well as certain fines imposed on businesses or individuals who violate regulations established under the measure, would be deposited in a new special fund, the California Marijuana Tax Fund. Monies deposited in the fund would first be used to reimburse certain state agencies, such as the bureau, for any costs of regulating the commercial marijuana industry not covered by license fees. After reimbursing state agencies for implementation costs, the measure would allocate a portion of the remaining revenues for the following purposes (in order of priority):
Any funds remaining after the above allocations would be annually allocated as follows: (1) 60 percent to the state Department of Health Care Services for substance use disorder education and prevention programs for youth; (2) 20 percent to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the state Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) for environmental programs designed to clean up and prevent environmental damage resulting from the illegal cultivation of marijuana; and (3) 20 percent to CHP for programs designed to reduce driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs and to the Board of State and Community Corrections for a grant program designed to mitigate any potential negative impacts on public health or safety resulting from the implementation of the measure. Under the measure, beginning July 2028, the Legislature could change the above allocations to further the purpose of the measure, subject to certain limitations (such as a requirement that any changes further the purpose of the measure).
The measure also requires that funding provided to DFW and DPR from the Marijuana Tax Fund not be used to replace other funds currently used by the departments for the purposes described above. As such, the measure requires that General Fund appropriations to DFW and DPR not be reduced below the levels provided in the 2014-15 Budget Act.
Local Regulation of Marijuana Businesses. Under the measure, cities and counties would continue to have the authority to regulate commercial marijuana businesses in their jurisdiction. For example, cities and counties could require marijuana businesses to obtain local licenses. In addition, cities and counties could set rules for such businesses (such as those related to hours of operation and minimum security levels) and establish restrictions on where they could be located. Cities and counties could also completely ban marijuana-related businesses in their jurisdiction. However, cities and counties could not ban (1) the transportation of marijuana through their jurisdictions or (2) the delivery of marijuana to individuals in their jurisdictions.
Marijuana Cultivation and Possession for Personal Use. Under the measure, individuals over the age of 21 could lawfully (1) possess, process, transport, or give away to individuals over the age of 21, up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and up to eight grams of concentrated cannabis and (2) cultivate up to six living marijuana plants and possess the marijuana produced by the plants within a private residence. Cultivation of marijuana for personal use would only be allowed in a locked area on private property that is not visible from a public place. Under the measure, cities and counties could place “reasonable” restrictions on the cultivation of marijuana for personal use (such as by prohibiting outdoor cultivation) but could not prohibit cultivation within a fully enclosed and secure private residence.
Authorization of Civil and Criminal Penalties. The measure changes existing state penalties related to the use, possession, transportation, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. For example, under current law possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by an individual under the age of 18 is an infraction punishable by a $100 fine. Under the measure, such a crime would remain an infraction but would instead be punishable by a requirement to attend a drug education or counseling program and complete community service. In addition, it is currently a felony to sell any amount of marijuana for recreational purposes. Under the measure, it would be a crime punishable as an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony, depending on certain factors (such as the prior criminal history of the offender), for individuals over the age of 18 to sell marijuana without a valid license. In addition, individuals engaging in any commercial marijuana activity without a license would be subject to a civil penalty of up to three times the amount of the license fee for each violation.
Individuals Previously Convicted of Marijuana Crimes. Under the measure, individuals currently serving a sentence for marijuana-related crimes that would not have been crimes or would have been subject to lesser penalties had the measure been in place when they were committed would be eligible for resentencing. For example, an offender serving a misdemeanor or a felony sentence for possessing, cultivating, or selling marijuana would be eligible to be resentenced. However, a court would not be required to resentence an offender if it determined that the offender was likely to commit certain specified severe crimes. Qualifying individuals would be resentenced to whatever punishment they would have received under the measure. Under the measure, resentenced offenders currently in jail or prison would be subject to community supervision for up to one year following their release. However, the measure allows courts to waive the community supervision requirement. In addition, individuals who have already completed their sentences for such crimes could apply to the courts to have their convictions reclassified. The measure also requires the destruction of arrest and conviction records for individuals previously arrested or convicted for certain marijuana-related offenses.
Summary of Fiscal Effects. It is estimated that this measure would have the following major fiscal effects, which could vary considerably depending on (1) how, and to what extent, state and local governments choose to regulate and tax the commercial production and sale of marijuana, (2) future consumption by marijuana users, and (3) the extent to which the U.S. Department of Justice exercises its discretion to enforce federal prohibitions on marijuana activities otherwise permitted by this measure.
Read the full text of The Adult Use of Marijuana Act that will be on the November 2016 California ballot.