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Is Cannabis Legal in California?

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California has legalized cannabis for both medical and recreational use. It was actually the first state to legalize medical cannabis back in 1996.

Cannabis was initially cultivated for rope and fiber in California as early as 1795. In 1810, with the rebellion of Mexico against the Spanish crown, subsidies for growing this hemp were cut which led to it nearly disappearing.

The movement for the legalization in the U.S. of medical cannabis sprang from San Francisco at the start of the 1990s, leading to statewide efforts across the nation. 79% of San Francisco voters passed Proposition P in November 1991 beseeching the legislation to allow medical cannabis by state lawmakers. In August 1992, with prima facia evidence that cannabis can be used to alleviate suffering and pain, a resolution was passed make arrest as well as prosecution of involvement or possession of cannabis a low priority. This resolution led to the open sale of marijuana to AIDS patients as well as others within the city, through the “San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club” and others.

Dennis Peron the medical cannabis activist that spearheaded Proposition P later proposed the statewide Proposition 215 which was passed in 1996 and became the nation’s first law on Medical Marijuana.

Limits were set by guidelines passed in 2003 on the cultivation and possession of marijuana by both eligible patients as well as their caregivers. The state gives medical marijuana identification cards, though registration is not considered to be mandatory for compliance.

Conditions that are considered to qualify for medical marijuana use in the state of California include:

  • AIDS
  • Anorexia
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • PTSD
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Depression
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures including those prompted by epileptic seizures
  • Other persistent and chronic medical conditions which limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities.

Though California was the first state to make medical cannabis legal in November of 1996, it took a bit more time to legalize it for recreational use.

In the United States, California has been one of the states that have been at the forefront in trying to liberalize cannabis laws since 1972 when they had the nation's virgin ballot initiative which attempted to legalize cannabis through Proposition 19. Even though this was not successful, California still ended up being a front liner.

Cannabis was first cultivated for rope and fiber in California as early as the year 1795. Among those who cultivated cannabis for its psychoactive properties in these early days were Armenians, Arabs, and Turks to make hashish for their own and local consumption.

The legalization of recreational cannabis:

Proposition 19 (1972): From as far back as 1972, California had started taking measures to seek the legalization of cannabis. This proposition also known as the California Marijuana Initiation sought to legalize the possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis without allowing commercial sales. It was defeated by a margin of 33–67% which was rather wide.

Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act (2009): This act sought to do away with penalties under the state law for the possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 years and over. Though this became the first bill for legalizing cannabis to be passed by a legislative committee (4 to 3), it failed to get to the floor.

Proposition 19 (2010): This proposition was again rejected by California voters in a 53.5% to 46.5% vote. This initiative faced serious opposition from various police organizations as well as cultivation conglomerates.

Proposition 64 (2016): Proposition 64 which is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act was passed by a 57% – 43% vote on November 8, 2016, which legalized the sale, use, and growing of recreational cannabis for those who are 21 years of age and over.

The passing of this proposition immediately allowed for:

The possession, processing, transportation, obtaining, purchasing, or giving away without compensation up to 1 Oz of dry marijuana as well as 8 gms of concentrated marijuana by adults 21 years and above.

The planting, cultivating, possessing, harvesting, drying, or processing of up to six live plants in a private home or locked area not visible from normal view and in compliance with local ordinances.

Smoking or ingesting cannabis.

Possessing, transporting, obtaining, purchasing, using, manufacturing, or giving away marijuana paraphernalia to adults of 21 years and above.

Users may not:

  • Smoke marijuana in places where tobacco intake is prohibited.
  • Possess, smoke, or ingest cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, or youth center when the children are present (except in a private residence where smoke is undetectable to the said children).
  • Manufacture concentrated cannabis by the use of volatile solvents or without a license as stipulated in “Chapter 3.5 of Division 8 or Division 10” of the “Business and Professions Code”.
  • Smoke or ingest cannabis when operating a vehicle for transportation.
  • Smoke or ingest cannabis when riding in a compartment or passenger seat of a vehicle.


Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.