Americans need not go as far as Amsterdam to enjoy good weed away from the heavy gaze of the law. Stoners in the US can just scoot on over to California to enjoy some of the best marijuana in the world. In fact, this state takes weed so seriously that while some states are still busy arguing over THC limits, Humboldt County actually banned outdoor cultivation of low-THC hemp as it can cross-pollinate the high-THC marijuana crops the California region is famed for.
Before you shout “Eureka!” which is, by the way, the Golden State’s motto, thinking that it’s ok for you to tote bags of buds while walking merrily around town, think again. Even with California’s accommodating stance on marijuana, its laws are still fraught with conditions that users, growers, and sellers need to be aware of so they won’t get into trouble.
If you’re looking to get your hands on some grass in for whatever reason and not get caught by the devil in the details, then you better read our guide so you can get well acquainted with all the marijuana laws in California.
This article was reviewed and updated for 2021.
- Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in California
- History of marijuana in California
- Growing medical vs recreational marijuana in California
- Possession & use of marijuana in California
- Marijuana for minors?
- Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of California
- FAQs about growing marijuana in California
Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in California
Here’s the short and sweet version of the marijuana laws in California that address home growing:
- Only 6 plants per household for recreational use, regardless of the number of adults living there.
- Medical marijuana license holders can grow as many as required by their condition, as long as they have a doctor’s recommendation. The number of plants should not exceed 99 or go over a total of 100 square feet of canopy.
- You should keep your marijuana plants away from public view.
- Local policies can restrict or relax state marijuana laws and policies will vary by county.
This was last updated in June 2020. We will be updating this guide with new developments that may come out.
Punishments for Violating California Home Grow Laws
Under HS 11358:
- It is an infraction for individuals aged 18 but below 21 to grow more than six cannabis plants. Violators will be slapped with a fine of up to $100.
- Meanwhile, it is a misdemeanor for those over 21. They can get as much as 6 months in county jail and/or a $500 fine.
- Felony charges can even be filed against violators who have a prior record, are a registered sex offender, or have violated certain environmental laws while growing.
This was last updated in June 2020. We will be updating this guide with new developments that may come out.
History of marijuana in California
California has always been well-known for is its support for marijuana. It was one of the first states to have opened its arms to cannabis when it passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 which made medical marijuana legal. However, it took 10 years before the state legalized weed for recreational use under Prop. 64 or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA. Marijuana laws in California were then substantially revised in 2017 by the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA).
Growing medical vs recreational marijuana in California
As expected, the marijuana laws in California are some of the most reasonable in the nation. But even though all adult Californians are allowed to grow their own cannabis plants, there is still a limit to how many can be grown at a given time. As we mentioned in Where is it Legal to Grow Marijuana at Home in the US? there is always a limit on how many cannabis plants can be grown per household.
Recreational marijuana growing limit
Residents are allowed to grow up to 6 marijuana plants per household for recreational purposes. This is in addition to the 8 grams of cannabis that can be kept or stored.
Medical marijuana growing limit
As previously mentioned, the law may vary from one county to another. In most counties, the medical and recreational limit is the same. However, the yield from 6 plants is often inadequate for the need of medical marijuana users, so some counties allow patients and caregivers to cultivate as many as they want, as long as the total canopy area fits within 100 square feet and they don’t exceed 99 plants. This means caregivers with 5 patients can grow in a total of 500 sq feet. Also, important is to grow your plants in an indoor space away from public view.
Medical marijuana legal requirements in California
However, Californians can only grow and use this much if they have a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana and a doctor’s recommendation.
Thankfully enough, this is not difficult to get. There are a number of websites that provide this service and some do not even need you to set a physical appointment with a doctor. All you need to do is fill out a form and they’ll send your medical cannabis recommendation document by mail after.
Although not a requirement, most Californians who grow medical marijuana also make sure that they have a medical marijuana ID card as a supporting document to show authorities so they won’t get into trouble. To get a California Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC), you have to appear in person to submit the necessary documentary requirements to the health department of your county. Below is a list of requirements you’ll need to submit:
- A copy of your medical recommendation.
- Proof of identity. You can use your California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver license, identification (ID) cards, or other government-issued photo IDs.
- Proof of residency. Some examples would be your rental or mortgage agreement, utility bill, or California DMV motor vehicle registration.
Here is a list of health department locations per county across California.
So if you want to start growing, you need to get some seeds. While you can easily buy over-the-counter from most dispensaries, seed banks will have far more choices of strains. Your only other option would be to order your seeds online either locally or internationally. This is where it can get problematic since interstate and international sales are under the purview of the federal government. This makes this kind of purchase illegal. However, most online seed sellers are aware of this problem. They usually take every measure to ensure that you won’t get into any legal trouble and that you get the seeds that you ordered. I’ve tried it myself and it works, check out Where to Buy Marijuana Seeds and What I Bought if you want to know where I bought my seeds.
Possession & use of marijuana in California
All adult Californians aged 21 and above are allowed to possess, use, sell, and grow cannabis in the state. However, this is only under certain prerequisites. Get ready for some big “buts”.
If you want to buy weed, you can only legally do so from licensed dispensaries. You can either buy from an “adult-use” or a medical-use dispensary, the latter if you have a medical cannabis ID.
You can only carry 28.5 (about an ounce) grams of weed on you and 8 grams of concentrated cannabis so keep anything extra at home. However, medical users can have up to 8 oz. and even 2000 mg of THC per package and do not have to pay retail tax on weed.
You can give this amount of weed away, but not sell it. Only businesses with state licenses are allowed to do that.
You also cannot consume the weed that you are carrying in public, especially in federally controlled lands. Consume it in public and you’ll get fined $100, $250 is you’re in a non-smoking area, within 1000 feet of a school, daycare center and similar facilities for children, or when you’re riding or driving a vehicle. You also cannot take your weed across state borders, even into states where it is legal.
Marijuana for minors?
But what about minors that need medical marijuana? Under marijuana laws in California, specifically, Prop 215, Californians under 18 can use cannabis, but with permission from their legal guardians. Meanwhile, minors aged 18-20 can visit state-licensed medical dispensaries. Needless to say, it is illegal to give minors marijuana since possession of cannabis by those aged 18-21 gets a fine of $100. Meanwhile, those below 18 get only community service and/or drug counseling.
One very important thing to keep in mind: all these rules can either be relaxed or restricted further by your local government, so it is best to consult county authorities before grabbing some grass and lighting up.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of California
How does California’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about growing marijuana in California
Yes, it is legal to home grow recreational cannabis in California.
The state allows up to 6 plants per household for recreational use. It doesn’t matter the number of people in the house. The maximum is 6 plants per house.
Yes, it is legal to grow at home for medical purposes. Registering for a medical marijuana card is voluntary but it gives the holder additional legal protection.
In most counties, patients and their caregivers can home grow as many plants as required by their illness as recommended by their doctor, with the total number of plants not exceeding 99 or 100 square feet of canopy per residence. However, the limit still depends on the ordinances of each county.
In most cases you are only allowed to grow at your private residence away from public view. However, to ensure you are compliant with both state and local laws it is suggested you consult your local county’s growing laws.
For recreational use growers need to be over 21 years of age. For medical purposes, the grower can be as young as 18.
As you can see, there are still a lot of rules and etiquettes to be observed regarding weed possession, use, sale, and cultivation in California, even though it is a pro-weed state. All these requirements can be confusing but to simplify things, here are some of the most important points you should keep in mind to avoid getting into trouble:
- Don’t sell weed if you don’t have a license.
- If you’re going to carry some, keep it under an ounce and don’t consume it outdoors. Only consume it indoors within your own premises, or where you are absolutely sure that the owner of the place will allow you to. Never consume while in a vehicle.
- If you plan on growing more than 6 marijuana plants, apply for a medical marijuana ID and get a doctor’s recommendation first.
- Keep your marijuana plants away from public view at all times.
- Never give marijuana to a minor. This is unless you are their legal guardian and the minor is a registered medical marijuana patient.