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Whether you’re moving to the state or just considering California weed vacations, you need to know how to consume legal recreational cannabis. While medical marijuana has been legal since back in 1996, recreational use wasn’t legalized until 20 years later.

California legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 and commenced selling it for recreational consumption in 2018. Legal recreational retailers must have both a local and state permit to sell marijuana legally. There are tight restrictions on who can buy, where you can consume, and how much you can possess.

So, how do you know where to buy premier marijuana? Do you need an ID? How much can you buy? There are a multitude of questions about the legalities around purchasing recreational cannabis in California. This guide will help you navigate the legal waters of buying—and more importantly, enjoying—cannabis in California.

First, let’s look at where it’s legal to buy marijuana in the United States.

What states sell marijuana?

As of the end of 2018, 13 states have decriminalized non-medical marijuana use, and it’s been legalized in an additional 10 states. Michigan became the tenth state to make recreational cannabis legal, but they’re still working out how to make that happen. In addition, Missouri and Utah legalized medical marijuana.

To date, only seven states have fully legalized recreational marijuana retailers: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, and Alaska. These stores are completely legal under state law, which means any adult aged 21 or older can purchase cannabis or any accessory like a bong or grinder.

How many marijuana retail shops are there in California?

As of the end of 2018, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control reported 358 licensed recreational weed stores in the state. They have a two-page fact sheet that covers what cannabis retailers are allowed to do. It also details their legal requirements for selling and delivering marijuana, as well as restrictions on packaging and labeling, shipping and inventory, and more. Before you expect your friendly cannabis retailer to deliver your weed to your door, read these regulations to understand their restrictions.

It may sound like 358 marijuana retail stores is sufficient, but remember California’s population is 1.7 million. Add to that the millions of tourists who infiltrate California each year, and it leaves about a single store per hundreds of thousands of people. And individuals from certain large communities like Fresno must travel over an hour to the closest retail store.

If you’re planning a weed vacation to California, check to make sure there are retail stores in the vicinity. Or Google “California weed vacations” and take advantage of the many resources that will help you find the best places to stay.

How much pot can an individual possess?

The next question, after where can I buy it, is how much pot can I have. Since voters made recreational cannabis use legal in California, if you are 21 years old or older, you can have up to 28.5 grams or an ounce of marijuana. If you’re purchasing cannabis concentrates like edibles or medicated creams, you can possess up to 8 grams.

If you live in California and want to grow your own pot, you can have up to 6 lives cannabis plants. But laws limit each household or residence to 6 total plants, so each person in your family can’t grow 6 of their own.

To possess recreational marijuana in any form, you must have a government-issued ID that proves you’re 21 or older. And if you’re caught exceeding the legal limit for possession, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and punished with jail time or a hefty fine.

How many times a day can you shop at a retail marijuana shop?

There’s no restriction on how many times a day you can visit your local marijuana retailer. The restriction is how much you can possess or buy. Regardless of how many times you shop each day, you’re only allowed to buy one ounce of cannabis or eight grams of marijuana concentrates per day.

You won’t need more than the legal limit, however. An ounce of pot will provide quite a few joints, enough to get you through 24 hours without a problem. What you need to be careful with is purchasing the concentrates. Some products are concentrate-heavy, meaning you’ll go over the 8-gram legal limit quickly.

Also, remember the legal hours of operation for marijuana retailers and delivery services is between 6am and 10pm. Make sure you plan your shopping trips accordingly.

Can I take California weed home with me?

If you live in California, you’re allowed to buy marijuana and take it home. If you’re in California for vacation, it’s illegal to take cannabis over state lines. That means whether you’re flying or driving to another state, you’ll be charged with possession if you take marijuana across state lines.

The TSA in airports are governed by federal law, which considers cannabis a Schedule 1 drug and as such is illegal. If you try to take weed on a plane, you’ll be subject to federal penalties.

Where can I legally smoke my weed?

By law, any type of cannabis consumption is included in the term “smoke.” So if you’re eating a cannabis product, using an oral spray or a vaporizer, or ingesting cannabis in some form, it falls under the umbrella of “legally smoking.”

Essentially, you can smoke legally purchased marijuana in the privacy of your own home or other private properties that don’t have weed restrictions. One thing to remember is that anywhere you can’t smoke tobacco, you can’t smoke cannabis either.

So it’s illegal to smoke pot in any public building or space like a school, youth center, restaurant, bar, park, day care, hospital, etc. You can’t smoke marijuana within 1,000 feet of any place where children might be like schools, day care centers, etc. If you have weed with you in public, it must be in a sealed, child-proof container. And if you break the seal, keep your cannabis out of sight in a bag, purse, your car’s glove compartment, etc.

In addition, it’s illegal to smoke marijuana in a vehicle, and you can’t transport an open package or container of weed or marijuana products. This includes your passengers; they can’t eat
marijuana brownies while you’re driving the streets of LA. To legally move your weed in your vehicle, keep it in a child-proof container out of the reach of the driver at all times.

As far as the comforts of your home, if your residence is within 1,000 feet of a child-oriented facility, you can still consume as long as no one can see or smell you smoking. Be careful smoking outside on your property; it’s allowed as long as you’re secured from the public and your city or county doesn’t prohibit you from smoking outside.

Please note, if you rent rather than own your home, make sure your landlord doesn’t prohibit marijuana on his or her properties.

What about smoking and driving?

Just like drinking and driving, it’s illegal to smoke or consume marijuana and drive. This includes edibles and vaporizers. Law enforcement treats driving under the influence of marijuana the same way they treat driving under the influence of alcohol.

California law also doesn’t protect you from being fired for working under the influence of pot. Just like you wouldn’t go to work drunk, don’t show up to work stoned.

Just like with alcohol, penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana become more severe with each conviction. Expect anywhere from probation and fines to license suspension and jail time. In fact, some people think law enforcement have become more serious about driving under the influence since California passed recreational use laws.

What about exporting marijuana?

It’s true that California has a surplus of legal marijuana to sell. However, exporting cannabis in any shape or form across state lines, whether through the mail or driven in a vehicle, is illegal. Even if you’re exporting weed to another state with legal recreational use laws, it’s still illegal.

When the time comes that cannabis is legalized at the federal level, California will be in the envious position of having plenty of weed to export. Then, and only then, we can export to states trying to catch up to the rest of the country. Until such time, to stay legal with recreational cannabis in California, don’t mail it to your buddy in Ohio.

Final thoughts

If you are 21 years or older and have a government-issued ID card to provide it, you have the constitutional right to possess and consume marijuana in California. Just beware of the restrictions and stay within the letter of the law. If you don’t have the appropriate local and state licenses, you can’t sell or distribute cannabis in any shape or form.

To recap:

  • You must be 21 years or older to purchase or possess marijuana in any form.
  • You must buy from a licensed retailer or distributor.
  • You can possess 1 ounce of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis at any one time.
  • You can’t smoke or consume marijuana in any form in public.
  • Anywhere you can’t smoke tobacco, you can’t consume cannabis.
  • You can consume on private property as long as the owner or landlord allows it.
  • It’s illegal to move your marijuana over the state line.

So, if you’re moving to or vacationing in our lovely state, make sure you know the rules and can stick to them. Always remember, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug under the federal government. This means even though it’s legal to consume medically and recreationally in California, federal prosecutors can still arrest and prosecute you for using—even if you’re in compliance with state marijuana laws.

If you’d like more information about California marijuana laws, the Shouse California Law Group has a comprehensive guide you should read.

Christopher Wright

Meet Christopher Wright, aka Blue, successful radio host and creator of Cannabis Talk 101. As well as CEO of Cannabis Talk Network. For over a decade now, Chris has had his hands in all faucets of the Cannabis Industry. From medicinal marijuana dispensaries and cultivations to controversial cannabis activism, Chris is a pioneer for the cannabis movement.