A Complete Guide to Recreational Cannabis Use in California

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One thing you learn living in California is that nothing is typical. There is nothing standard about recreational cannabis use before or after legalization. If anything, while users and providers try to figure out the new legal market, things are even a bit crazier.

Any guide to recreational cannabis use in California must begin with some understanding of the state’s complexity.

All about California

California is a large, heavily populated state of mind. As population areas grow and multiply, each takes on its own character.

The Golden State is 1040 miles north to south. That’s about the same distance from Boston, MA to Savannah, GA. If you can visualize all the cultural, political, racial, and socio-economic differences in that east coast map, you can appreciate the diversity of California.

  • Perpetually sunny San Diego welcomes tourists and wealthy residents. But, it’s within walking distance of Tijuana and working-class towns east of its Hotel Circle.
  • Laguna Beach boasts arts and artists — some incredible wealth. And, it’s the first of plush beach towns running north to Newport Beach.
  • Los Angeles hosts millions of people from the homeless to wealthiest, continuously feuding social classes, and hundreds of similar cities spreading east to the Coachella Valley with its resorts.
  • San Joaquin Valley and the Central Valley with their wealth of orchards and farms feed the world from mileage above Los Angeles.
  • Monterrey introduces you to the San Francisco Bay region with its urban sophistication, wine country, and hi-tech centers.
  • Several mountain ranges are home to people with no interest in or love for the city and with little fear of being caught at what they’ve been doing for decades.
  • And, north of The City, redwood forests, mountain country, and rustic locations blend with Oregon.

The point of this tour guide is to draw a picture of countless niche markets, diverse customers, and economic resources that make it difficult for California to standardize its recreational use cannabis economy.

Basic guidelines

Most of the following guidelines are subject to county and municipal regulations which are not yet in synch:

  • ID: All you need is a valid ID showing you are 21 or over. Prop 64 does not require California residency, and out-of-state visitors may purchase and use with a valid proof of age.
  • Public: Proposition 64 does not authorize smoking cannabis in public. You cannot smoke cannabis any place that prohibits smoking.
  • Lounges: Smoking rooms and cafes may be authorized in the future by municipalities.
  • Registration: You do not register with California for the use or the home cultivation of six plants.
  • Taxes: California expects to raise billions in taxes on cannabis purchases. However, few things are as diverse as the tax structures from county to county and city to city. Although taxes could more than double product costs, even the California Tax Code does little to straighten this out.
  • Travel: From boogie board beaches to ski resorts, you can carry recreational cannabis in California. Adults can carry 1 oz of flower or bud or eight grams of concentrate on their person.
  • Flight: Possession while traveling by plane within the state or out of the state violates federal law. The TSA has concentrated on bigger issues, but you do so at your own risk. Small California airports ignore or make little of violations, referring it to local police at the most. And, you may carry 1 oz or less from one California airport to another.
  • Gifting: You cannot resell purchased cannabis, but you can give 28.5 grams away to anyone over 21.
  • Mail: You may not ship cannabis through the U.S. Post Office or carriers, including FedEx, DHL, or UPS. You might be able to, but it is not legal.
  • Hours: Recreational cannabis dispensaries cannot operate between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Driving: You may not smoke or consume edibles while driving a car or riding as a passenger. The cannabis product must remain in an unbroken sealed container. If the container seal has been broken, the product must be in trunk of vehicle.
  • Employment: No regulation prevents employers from terminating employees with cannabis in their system or possession.
  • Landlord: Landlords or managers of hotels and motels may prohibit the use of cannabis on their premises.
  • Advertising: Producers and retailers are prohibited from advertising that would attract users under 21.
  • Convictions: Sacramento continues to figure out how and when to release those previously convicted of cannabis-related infractions. Their records will be cleared or adjusted to reflect Prop 64, and many felonies will be reduced to misdemeanors. Under certain conditions, previously convicted may even be eligible to operate a recreational use dispensary.
  • Medical Marijuana: Your medical marijuana card exempts you from the 15% excise tax, so it may prove useful.
  • Location: Local jurisdictions promote or discourage the presence of recreational cannabis dispensaries. Ironically, that pushes them into industrial and low-income areas where the predicted “new markets” find them inconvenient. The state is not likely to interfere with the local power, but except for the major population centers, this remains an inconvenience.

The future guide to recreational personal cannabis use in California

The euphoria that greeted the passage of Prop 64 has been partly discouraged. As of March 2018, the state still has large cannabis desserts.

The Sacramento Bee found, “About 40 percent of the state is more than 60 miles from a legal marijuana dispensary.”

California regulations on water use, environmental control, and electric resources will increase farming costs. Seed-to-sale tracking increases the retailer’s cost burden. And, quality controls on labeling make recreational cannabis a tough enterprise to navigate.

So, given the cost, inconvenience, and quality control, the black market still has an upper hand. And, with the Department of Justice rattling swords at legalized states, the black market thrives.