When is Marijuana Legal in California? Spoiler Alert: It Already Is

california marijuana

After a state legalizes cannabis for adult use, many members of the cannabis community will wonder when they can first legally use marijuana in the state, whether they are living in the state, or thinking of taking a trip the new newly-legalized locale. California, home to over 36 million people and a tourist destination for folks around the globe, outdid other legalization measures in a few ways, including legalizing personal possession and cultivation the day after election day. Thus, at the stroke of midnight on November 9th, 2016, cannabis was legalized for adults in the Golden State.

Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance laid out how the law changed in California on November 9th in an interview in Time:

So what’s legal on Nov. 9 that wasn’t on Nov. 8?

“First the bad news,” says Reiman, whose organization helped craft the measure: There aren’t any adult-use pot shops yet, and you can’t just walk into a medical dispensary without a patient card and start buying up brownies. But there is good news for those who would partake: for adults over the age of 21 in California, it is now legal to use, possess and share cannabis, as well as grow it at home. Adults can open their bags, plop in up to one ounce of flowers or eight grams of concentrate (like the stuff you put in vape pens) and go walk around in the world without fear of arrest.

Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska all put off legal cannabis for a bit following election day. Washington was actually the first state to legalize cannabis possession on the ballot box on December 6, 2012. Colorado followed suit on December 10th. Alaska’s legalization measure went into effect on February 24, 2014, while my home state of Oregon was next to legalize, a few months later on July 1st.

California not only broke the mold by immediately legalizing cannabis, but also by promptly allowing for old convictions to be retroactively downgraded. Oregon, I’m proud to state, led the way on this retroactive expungement of criminal penalties, but it took additional legislation to accomplish the goal. Proposition 64 has already paid dividends for those convicted of cannabis crimes, changing lives for the better.

Reiman explained in Time:

What about all the social-justice motivations for legalizing marijuana?

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have pushed for legalization as a matter of criminal-justice reform, in large part because minorities are disproportionately detained and jailed for cannabis-related offenses. As of Nov. 9, criminal penalties will undergo change; some past offenders will have a chance to get their records expunged (or get out of jail early); and people under the age of 18 will be “sentenced” not with jail time but drug counseling and community service if they are caught with cannabis. When they come of age, those records will be destroyed.

There are a lot of details, and Reiman says the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU are currently working to set up systems that will help people understand whether the changes apply to them. But, as an example, if someone earned a felony conviction for cultivating six plants or fewer in the past, which every Californian can now legally do, they’d have a case for getting that record wiped clean.

With 56.8% support, Californians legalized cannabis by the greatest margin of any state, surpassing the 56.1% victory in Oregon (although we Oregonians still hold the mid-term record!) and I sincerely believe that the success of Prop 64 will be known as the nail in prohibition’s coffin. With the world’s sixth-largest economy legalizing cannabis, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the United States and the world follows suit. While our short-term progress will have some ups and downs, our long-term victory is inevitable.


Anthony Johnson
About Anthony Johnson 136 Articles
Anthony Johnson, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, is the director of New Approach Oregon, working to effectively implement the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature, before regulatory bodies,and at city councils and county commissions across the state.He was proud to work as Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort and director of the Vote Yes on 91 PAC, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. He also advises cannabis entrepreneurs on how to comply with Oregon's laws and helps organize the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference. Anthony's blogs on are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization. You can see his work here at Weed News as well as MarijuanaPolitics.com.