California Legal Information
In 1996, California became the first medical cannabis state when voters approved Prop. 215, the Compassionate Use Act. That law allows doctors to recommend cannabis for any serious or persistent medical condition, and allows patients to legally use, possess, and grow cannabis and designate caregivers to assist them. In 2003, the California legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act, establishing a voluntary ID card program, protections for transporting cannabis, and a legal framework to protect not-for-profit dispensing collectives and cooperatives. The voluntary registry issues ID cards that offer protection from arrest for patients and caregivers in possession of no more than eight ounces of useable cannabis, or cultivating no more than six mature or 12 immature plants. Patients and designated caregivers without a state ID card or those in possession of larger quantities are afforded an affirmative defense. Qualified patients on probation or parole may legally use medical cannabis with the consent of their probation or parole officer. Municipalities may restrict or ban the operation of not-for-profit dispensing collectives and cooperatives in their jurisdiction.
In This Section
View and print the California MMJ State Report Card from our latest report: Medical Marijuana Access in the U.S. A Patient-Focused Analysis of the Patchwork of State Laws.
Proposition 215, California Senate Bill 420, California County and City Medical Cannabis Laws etc.
Patients and their caregivers are permitted to legally use, have, and grow cannabis for medical purposes. The law also protects not-for-profit collective and cooperative grow operations and allows primary caregivers to be reimbursed for the costs of their services.
Medical professionals recommending medical cannabis must posses a license to practice medicine or osteopathy in California issued by the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California. This license must be in good standing and meet the following requirements.
The CUA provides basic protections for medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers from prosecution for cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical use. Since it became effective on November 5, 1996, California courts of appeal have, for the most part, narrowly construed its provisions, fearing an "open sesame" for marijuana distribution not intended by the California voters. Learn more about how to defend medical marijuana patients in California.
Unfortunately, patients, caregivers, and providers are still vulnerable to federal and state arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration. They also suffer pervasive discrimination in employment, child custody, housing, public accommodation, education and medical care.
Every state has varying laws and regulations for caregivers, cultivators and medical cannabis providers. This section includes an overview of state requirements and links to necessary forms and applications.
Any patient or caregiver can become the target of a law enforcement action. Each person who decides to use medical cannabis, or helps a patient to do so, should be prepared in advance to successfully maneuver through these encounters. You might not be able to avoid arrest in each instance, but chances of successfully fighting charges are greatly improved by education and careful planning. There are many measures you can take before legal problems occur. Here is a checklist that patients and caregivers can use to prepare themselves.
ASA has been supporting the CA medical cannabis community for over 11 years. This section includes the most frequently asked questions from CA patients and providers including housing issues, employment, child custody, criminal charges, patients on probation and parole, and more.