Registered Patient Population
of Total Population Represented by Patients
Total Medical Retail Locations Currently in Operation
186,617 : 1
Patients : Retail
In 1996, California became the first medical cannabis state when voters approved Prop 215, the Compassionate Use Act. 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. These ID cards offered protection from arrest for patients and caregivers in possession of no more than eight ounces of 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. Over the years, adjustments continued to be made including the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) in 2016, which expanded rights for patients by adding parental rights protections, enhancing patient privacy rules, prohibiting cities from banning personal cultivation, and exempting card-holding patients from sales tax.
Cannabis is theoretically legal to all adults over 21 in California. Despite this, a byzantine regulatory structure has many counties and towns throughout the state with local restrictions keeping dispensaries from opening or producers from operating. Many of these local restrictions came with adult use cannabis and have unfortunately impacted access for medical cannabis patients by allowing localities to ban activities previously permitted to patients like growing at home or operating a dispensary. California falls short in supplying sufficient legal protections to their citizens by failing to protect against discrimination of patients in employment, housing, and in roadside sobriety tests. Though some Californians saw no improvements in the program between 2020 and 2021, others saw improved access thanks to expanded delivery services provided by emergency COVID measures. California does not recognize out of state medical cannabis cards however, visitors can apply for a Medical Marijuana ID card. Details on how these laws apply to patients and medical professionals can be found below.
In 2016, Prop 64 allowed individuals in California who had completed a sentence for a cannabis-related offense to have convictions “dismissed, sealed, resentenced, and/or redesignated from a felony misdemeanor” by petition. The petition application form is available online as a PDF. In 2018, Assembly Bill (AB) 1793 pushed the expungement process, requiring the courts to identify eligible cases by July 1, 2019.
Home cultivation is allowed in California, for adults 21 and older. Six total plants may be grown for adult use, with no more than six plants allowed in any household at one time. Medical cannabis patients can obtain a grower’s recommendation, which allows them to cultivate their own plants with no growing limit and are instead allowed to grow the number of plants they need within 100 square feet to treat their qualifying condition. Keep in mind that local jurisdictions can set their own growing caps.
NOTICE: It can be challenging for patients to determine which businesses offering cannabis products are licensed and approved by the state. Review this list of medical cannabis retailers and/or a list of adult use retailers to find out where to purchase regulated cannabis in California.
Traveling? Get more information about traveling in the US here.
Here is a breakdown of how California fared in ASA’s Annual State of the States Report, which evaluates the effectiveness of each state cannabis program from a patient perspective and assigns a grade using a rubric that reflects the key issues affecting patient access. Medical cannabis laws are constantly changing, ASA’s policy recommendations for California can be found below. For policy updates sign up here.
|Patient Rights and Civil Protections
|Access to Medicine
|Health and Social Equity
|Consumer Protection and Product Safety
|Excerpted from ASA's 2022 State of the States Report.
Becoming a Patient in California
Is marijuana legal in California? Medical cannabis in California
Recommending Cannabis in California
Legal guidance for physicians recommending medical cannabis in California
Find local ASA Chapters, Action Groups and Affiliates in California and get involved in local campaigns.
History Of Medical Cannabis In California
A brief history of medical marijuana legalization in California
Policy Recommendations California
ASA's recommendations for medical cannabis policy improvements in California to benefit patients and consumers
Ryan's Law (SB 311)
Ryan's Law (SB 311) requires healthcare facilities to allow the use of medical cannabis by terminally ill patients. We have provided guides for patients, physicians, and healthcare facilities as well as a way for patients to report violations of the law.
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