Equity Project State Briefing
Is Cannabis Legal in California?
Cannabis in California is legal for both medical and adult use.
Date of Legalization
California legalized cannabis for medical use in 1996 through the passage of Proposition 215, the state’s Compassionate Use Act. California went on to legalize cannabis for adults in 2016 through proposition 64.
Regulations for California’s adult use and medical cannabis industry can be found at: https://cannabis.ca.gov/resources/rulemaking/
Within California’s adult use framework, adults 21+ may possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis not in concentrate form and up to 8 grams of concentrate and may grow up to six residential plants. Within the medical framework patients may possess up to eight ounces of flower, up to six mature plants and 12 immature plants.
Other Licensing Provisions
- License Caps:
California does not impose any state licensing caps, however, localities are authorized to implement licensing caps. For example Los Angeles has a cap on several license types such as retail licenses. Additionally, localities may opt out of participation in the adult use market. There are no notable carve outs for medical establishments operating prior to adult use legalization.
Application Selection Process
- Selection System:
California distributes its adult-use cannabis licenses through a compliance-based application review system.A compliance-based application review requires that applicants meet a set of requirements for licensure. Generally, the requirements are designed to ensure applicants are qualified and would be able to safely and responsibly operate.
Felony Disqualification on Ownership
- Ownership Exclusion for Felony Convictions:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
California’s adult use framework disqualifies applicants for cannabis licensure on the basis of certain conviction. The department may deny an application for licensure if the applicant, owner, or licensee has been convicted of an offense,within the proceeding 7 years, that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the application is made. Substantially related offenses shall include, but not be limited to: a violent felony, serious felony, a felony conviction in fraud deceit or embezzlement, or felony conviction for drug trafficking. California state law specifically states that convictions for the possession, sale, manufacture, transportation or cultivation of drugs are not considered substantially related to the qualifications and functions of holding a license and thus cannot be the sole reason you are denied a license (unless your conviction involved a minor).
Employee Criminal Records
- Conviction Restrictions for Employees:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
While there are no required state level background checks for California adult use cannabis employees, employers reserve the right to conduct background checks in compliance with Ban the Box/ Fair Chance Act legislation. California’s Fair Chance Act prohibits commercial background check companies from reporting convictions which have been expunged. California offers automatic expungements for certain qualifying cannabis convictions.
Availability of Expungements
California offers automatic expungement for cannabis related convictions which are now immune to prosecution under state adult use laws. Many cannabis convictions, for activity that still holds a penalty under state law, can be expunged after a certain amount of time by petitioning the court.