California Medical Marijuana Laws

California allows medical marijuana use under the circumstances described below. However, it is still a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana, and other laws regarding marijuana possession for non-medical purposes will also still apply.

For information on how California regulates marijuana in general, including updates that take effect January 1, 2017, see California Marijuana Laws.

To learn about charges and penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana in California, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in California.

Does California a Allow Medical Marijuana Use?

Yes. Under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, seriously ill Californians may obtain (or cultivate) and use marijuana for personal medical purposes, when deemed appropriate and beneficial by a physician. (Ca. Ann. Codes § 11362.5(a),(b)(1)(A).) Patients, their physicians, and primary caregivers are not criminally prosecuted when they abide by the regulations. (Ca. Ann. Codes § 11362.5(b)(1)(B).)

Medical marijuana is further governed by the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, passed by the voters in November 2016 and effective January 2017. That law dealt primarily with legalizing personal use and possession of small amounts of marijuana, but it also pertains to the state’s medical marijuana system. The new law:

  • requires patients to obtain a new recommendation from their physicians by January 1, 2018, which will result in additional privacy protections, and
  • ID cards may not cost more than $100, and must be waived in certain circumstances.

Interestingly, the 2017 law protects qualified patients who act in accordance with the law: Their status cannot, by itself, be a reason to restrict or abridge custodial or parental rights to minor children in any family court or juvenile proceeding. (California Health and Safety Code § 11362.84.)

Protection for Caregivers

The Compassionate Use Act also protects individuals who assist patients and caregivers in administering medical marijuana, or by teaching marijuana cultivation skills. (Ca. Ann. Codes § 11362.765(b)(3).) However, the Compassionate Use Act does not protect any conduct that endangers others, or when marijuana is diverted and used for nonmedical purposes, or sold for profit. (Ca. Ann. Codes § 11362.762(c).) To qualify for this protection, patients must obtain a physician’s recommendation and a personal medical marijuana identification card. (Ca. Ann. Codes § 11362.765(b)(3).)

Amounts Allowed

In California, marijuana possession is determined by counting the number of cannabis plants that a person owns, or by weighing the dried mature flowers of the female cannabis plant in a person’s possession. A qualified patient (or primary caregiver) may possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana, and up to six mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants. However, a patient may possess more if a physician recommends that these quantities do not meet the patient’s medical needs. Cities and counties may also enact their own guidelines that increase these state-mandated limits. (Ca. Ann. Codes § 11362.77(a),(b),&(c).)

An Important Note on Local Legal Representation

If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local defense attorney knows how any particular court handles such cases in your area.

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