6 California Cannabis Laws You Must Know

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California cannabis laws have experienced many changes since the passing of the “Compassionate Use Act” to legalize medical marijuana use in 1996. Among those changes was 2016’s Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which marked the legalization of recreational marijuana in California.

As the rules and regulations are rapidly evolving, we’ve put together this list of the California cannabis laws dispensaries must know to stay compliant.

You can find the full state law and regulations here.

California Marijuana Laws at a Glance

  • California uses Metrc as their state track-and-trace system.

  • The Department of Cannabis Control oversees the legal marijuana market in California.

  • Adults in California can purchase up to 28.5 grams of non-concentrated cannabis, 8 grams of concentrated cannabis, and 6 immature cannabis plants per day.

  • Medical marijuana patients can purchase 8 ounces of medical cannabis per day.

  • Cannabis labels in California have a primary panel for the most important information and an information panel for all other required information.

  • Both in-state and out-of-state patients can receive a medical marijuana card, so long as they meet the qualifying conditions.

  • Recreational marijuana users have to pay a 15% excise tax.

  • Deliveries can only be made by licensed retailers, micro-businesses, or nonprofits.

Law #1: Packaging and labeling

Law: (a) Prior to delivery or sale at a retailer, cannabis and cannabis products shall be labeled and placed in a resealable, tamper-evident, child-resistant package and shall include a unique identifier for the purposes of identifying and tracking cannabis and cannabis products. (b) Packages and labels shall not be made to be attractive to children. (c) All cannabis and cannabis product labels and inserts shall include the following information prominently displayed in a clear and legible fashion in accordance with the requirements, including font size, prescribed by the bureau or the State Department of Public Health: (1) The following statements, in bold print: (A) For cannabis: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: THIS PACKAGE CONTAINS CANNABIS, A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND ANIMALS. CANNABIS MAY ONLY BE POSSESSED OR CONSUMED BY PERSONS 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER UNLESS THE PERSON IS A QUALIFIED PATIENT. CANNABIS USE WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING MAY BE HARMFUL. CONSUMPTION OF CANNABIS IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE AND OPERATE MACHINERY. PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION.” (B) For cannabis products: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS CANNABIS, A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND ANIMALS. CANNABIS PRODUCTS MAY ONLY BE POSSESSED OR CONSUMED BY PERSONS 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER UNLESS THE PERSON IS A QUALIFIED PATIENT. THE INTOXICATING EFFECTS OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS MAY BE DELAYED UP TO TWO HOURS. CANNABIS USE WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING MAY BE HARMFUL. CONSUMPTION OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE AND OPERATE MACHINERY. PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION.” (2) For packages containing only dried flower, the net weight of cannabis in the package. (3) Identification of the source and date of cultivation, the type of cannabis or cannabis product and the date of manufacturing and packaging. (4) The appellation of origin, if any. (5) List of pharmacologically active ingredients, including, but not limited to, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoid content, the THC and other cannabinoid amount in milligrams per serving, servings per package, and the THC and other cannabinoid amount in milligrams for the package total. (6) A warning if nuts or other known allergens are used. (7) Information associated with the unique identifier issued by the Department of Food and Agriculture. (8) For a medicinal cannabis product sold at a retailer, the statement “FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY.” (9) Any other requirement set by the bureau or the State Department of Public Health. (d) Only generic food names may be used to describe the ingredients in edible cannabis products.

Explained: Packaging must be resealable, tamper-evident, and child-resistant. It must not appeal to children.

Cannabis labels in California have both a primary panel (located on the front or top of the package, containing the most important information) and an information panel (located on the back or anywhere visible on the packaging and containing required information that doesn’t need to be prominently displayed).

    Here are the requirements for cannabis flower labels and pre-rolls (pre-rolled joints):

    The primary panel must include:

    • a product identifier such as the general name or description of the item

    • the product’s net weight

    • California’s universal symbol printed in black at least 0.5” by 0.5”

    The information panel must include:

    • the UID number (tracking number issued by California’s track-and-trace system)
    • licensee’s name as listed on the license certificate (legal business name or DBA)
    • the licensee’s phone number and website
    • the date (month, day, and year) the product was packaged for retail sale
    • the government warning statement in bold, capital letters
    • the source and date of cultivation and the data of manufacturing and packaging

    Note: Labels must also list the cannabinoid content in percentages and include information for THC, CBD, and any other cannabinoids present in concentrations exceeding 5%. This can be on the primary or information panel.

    Law #2: Medical marijuana patient qualifying conditions

    Here are the qualifying conditions for participation in California’s Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP):

    • AIDS

    • anorexia

    • arthritis

    • cachexia (wasting syndrome)

    • cancer

    • chronic pain

    • glaucoma

    • migraine

    • persistent muscle spasms (e.g. spasms associated with multiple sclerosis)

    • seizures (e.g. epileptic seizures)

    • severe nausea

    • Any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that substantially limits a person’s ability to conduct major life activities as defined in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or that, if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the person’s safety and health (both physical and mental).

    According to California's medical marijuana laws, those with qualifying conditions don’t need to be California residents to obtain medical marijuana registration. Visitors who apply and are granted a card will have the same protections as a cardholder. These out-of-state residents will be charged the recreational excise tax, however.

    Visit California's state page to learn more about how to obtain a medical card.

    Law #3: Purchase limits

    Law: (a) A licensed retailer shall not sell more than the following amounts to a single adult-use cannabis customer in a single day: (1) 28.5 grams of non-concentrated cannabis. (2) 8 grams of cannabis concentrate as defined in Business and Professions Code section 26001, including cannabis concentrate contained in cannabis products. (3) 6 immature cannabis plants. (b) A licensed retailer shall not sell more than the following amounts to a single medicinal cannabis patient, or to a patient’s primary caregiver purchasing medicinal cannabis on behalf of the patient, in a single day: (1) 8 ounces of medicinal cannabis in the form of dried mature flowers or the plant conversion as provided in Health and Safety Code section 11362.77. Bureau of Cannabis Control Order of Adoption - 61 of 138 (2) 12 immature cannabis plants. (c) Notwithstanding subsection (b) of this section, if a medicinal cannabis patient’s valid physician’s recommendation contains a different amount than the limits listed in this section, the medicinal cannabis patient may purchase an amount of medicinal cannabis consistent with the patient’s needs as recommended by a physician and documented in the physician’s recommendation.

    Explained: Under AUMA, California adults 21 years of age and older with a valid, government-issued ID can purchase and possess no more than:

    • 28.5 grams of non-concentrated cannabis

    • 8 grams of concentrated cannabis

    • 6 immature cannabis plants per day

    California's medical marijuana program allows patients and primary caregivers to purchase and possess 8 ounces of medical marijuana per day.

    Law #4: Taxes

    Law: (a) (1) Effective January 1, 2018, a cannabis excise tax shall be imposed upon purchasers of cannabis or cannabis products sold in this state at the rate of 15 percent of the average market price of any retail sale by a cannabis retailer. A purchaser’s liability for the cannabis excise tax is not extinguished until the cannabis excise tax has been paid to this state except that an invoice, receipt, or other document from a cannabis retailer given to the purchaser pursuant to this subdivision is sufficient to relieve the purchaser from further liability for the tax to which the invoice, receipt, or other document refers (2) Each cannabis retailer shall provide a purchaser with an invoice, receipt, or other document that includes a statement that reads: “The cannabis excise taxes are included in the total amount of this invoice.” (b) (1) A distributor in an arm’s length transaction shall collect the cannabis excise tax from the cannabis retailer on or before 90 days after the sale or transfer of cannabis or cannabis product to the cannabis retailer. A distributor in a nonarm’s length transaction shall collect the cannabis excise tax from the cannabis retailer on or before 90 days after the sale or transfer of cannabis or cannabis product to the cannabis retailer, or at the time of retail sale by the cannabis retailer, whichever is earlier. A distributor shall report and remit the cannabis excise tax to the department pursuant to Section 34015. A cannabis retailer shall be responsible for collecting the cannabis excise tax from the purchaser and remitting the cannabis excise tax to the distributor in accordance with rules and procedures established under law and any regulations adopted by the department. (2) A distributor shall provide an invoice, receipt, or other similar document to the cannabis retailer that identifies the licensee receiving the product, the distributor from which the product originates, including the associated unique identifier, the amount of cannabis excise tax, and any other information deemed necessary by the department. (c) The excise tax imposed by this section shall be in addition to the sales and use tax imposed by the state and local governments. (e) Cannabis or cannabis products shall not be sold to a purchaser unless the excise tax required by law has been paid by the purchaser at the time of sale. (g) Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose an excise tax upon medicinal cannabis, or medicinal cannabis product, donated for no consideration to a medicinal cannabis patient pursuant to Section 26071 of the Business and Professions Code.

    Explained:

    • Recreational marijuana users in California pay a 15% excise tax. It’s collected by wholesalers and charged directly to retailers as part of an order’s total cost.

    • Excise tax for “arm’s length” orders is charged based on a predetermined markup rate the state sets every six months. The rate as of July 2021 is 80%.
      • “Arm’s length” products are purchased from external suppliers not affiliated with the retailers.

      • Not “arm’s length” essentially means vertically integrated — it’s when the product is purchased from a supplier that owns, is owned by, or is affiliated with the retailer.

    • California imposes state sales tax and business tax for recreational sales, though specific rates vary by location.

    Law #5: Advertising and marketing

    Law: (a) (1) All advertisements and marketing shall accurately and legibly identify the licensee responsible for its content, by adding, at a minimum, the licensee’s license number. (2) A technology platform shall not display an advertisement by a licensee on an Internet Web page unless the advertisement displays the license number of the licensee. (3) An outdoor advertising company subject to the Outdoor Advertising Act (Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 5200) of Division 3) shall not display an advertisement by a licensee unless the advertisement displays the license number of the licensee. (b) Any advertising or marketing placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print, and digital communications shall only be displayed where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older, as determined by reliable, up-to-date audience composition data. (c) Any advertising or marketing involving direct, individualized communication or dialogue controlled by the licensee shall utilize a method of age affirmation to verify that the recipient is 21 years of age or older before engaging in that communication or dialogue controlled by the licensee. For purposes of this section, that method of age affirmation may include user confirmation, birth date disclosure, or other similar registration method. (d) All advertising shall be truthful and appropriately substantiated. (Amended by Stats. 2017, Ch. 27, Sec. 85. (SB 94) Effective June 27, 2017. Note: This section was added on Nov. 8, 2016, by initiative Prop. 64.) A licensee shall not do any of the following: (a) Advertise or market in a manner that is false or untrue in any material particular, or that, irrespective of falsity, directly, or by ambiguity, omission, or inference, or by the addition of irrelevant, scientific, or technical matter, tends to create a misleading impression. (b) Publish or disseminate advertising or marketing containing any statement concerning a brand or product that is inconsistent with any statement on the labeling thereof. (c) Publish or disseminate advertising or marketing containing any statement, design, device, or representation which tends to create the impression that the cannabis originated in a particular place or region, unless the label of the advertised product bears an appellation of origin, and such appellation of origin appears in the advertisement. (d) Advertise or market on a billboard or similar advertising device located on an Interstate Highway or on a State Highway which crosses the California border. (e) Advertise or market cannabis or cannabis products in a manner intended to encourage persons under 21 years of age to consume cannabis or cannabis products. (f) Publish or disseminate advertising or marketing that is attractive to children. (g) Advertise or market cannabis or cannabis products on an advertising sign within 1,000 feet of a day care center, school providing instruction in kindergarten or any grades 1 to 12, inclusive, playground, or youth center. (h) Publish or disseminate advertising or marketing while the licensee’s license is suspended. (Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 923, Sec. 1. (AB 2899) Effective January 1, 2019. Note: This section was added on Nov. 8, 2016, by initiative Prop. 64.) 26153. A licensee shall not give away any amount of cannabis or cannabis products, or any cannabis accessories, as part of a business promotion or other commercial activity. For purposes of this section, the donation of cannabis or cannabis products by a licensee to a patient or the primary caregiver of a patient, pursuant to Section 26071, shall not be considered a business promotion or other commercial activity. (Amended by Stats. 2019, Ch. 837, Sec. 5. (SB 34) Effective January 1, 2020. Note: This section was added on Nov. 8, 2016, by initiative Prop. 64.) 26154. A licensee shall not include on the label of any cannabis or cannabis product or publish or disseminate advertising or marketing containing any health-related statement that is untrue in any particular manner or tends to create a misleading impression as to the effects on health of cannabis consumption.

    Explained:

    • Advertisements must target people over 21 years of age.

    • As of January 2021, all billboards and similar signage are illegal.

    • Cannabis advertising is prohibited within 1,000 feet of a daycare, school providing instruction in kindergarten or any grades 1-12, playground, or youth center.

    • Advertisements can’t make false or misleading statements.

    • Companies can’t give away cannabis products or accessories for free or as a promotion. They can, however, donate cannabis to a patient.

    Law #6: Delivery services

    Law: (a) Deliveries, as defined in this division, may only be made by a licensed retailer or microbusiness, or a licensed nonprofit under Section 26070.5. (b) All employees of a retailer, microbusiness, or nonprofit delivering cannabis or cannabis products shall carry a copy of the licensee’s current license and a government-issued identification with a photo of the employee, such as a driver’s license. The employee shall present that license and identification upon request to state and local law enforcement, employees of regulatory authorities, and other state and local agencies enforcing this division. (c) During delivery, the licensee shall maintain a copy of the delivery request and shall make it available upon request of the licensing authority and law enforcement officers. The delivery request documentation shall comply with state and federal law regarding the protection of confidential medical information. (d) A customer requesting delivery shall maintain a physical or electronic copy of the delivery request and shall make it available upon request by the licensing authority and law enforcement officers. (e) A local jurisdiction shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads by a licensee acting in compliance with this division and local law as adopted under Section 26200.

    Explained: Cannabis delivery is legal in California. Here are the basics:

    • Delivery services can be made by licensed retailers, microbusinesses, or nonprofits.

    • Employees of the retailers, microbusinesses, or nonprofits delivering cannabis and cannabis products must carry a copy of their licensee’s current license, as well as a government-issued photo ID of the employee. The employee must present both documents to local law enforcement, employees of regulatory authorities, and other state and local agencies enforcing this division upon request.

    • The licensee has to keep a copy of the delivery request during delivery and make it available to requesting licensing authority and law enforcement officers. This delivery request must comply with state and federal law to protect confidential medical information.

    • The customer requesting delivery must also keep a copy of the delivery request to present to requesting licensing authority and law enforcement officers.

    • Local jurisdictions cannot prevent the delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads by a compliant licensee.

    • Taxes are assessed based on the customer’s delivery location, not the dispensary location.

    California cannabis laws FAQs

    Is recreational cannabis legal in California?

    Yes, recreational cannabis was legalized by Prop 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) in 2016.

    What is the tax on cannabis in California?

    Recreational marijuana users and out-of-state medical marijuana patients with a state of California ID card have to pay the 15% excise tax. There is also an “arm’s length” markup designated by the state every 6 months included on the external supplier’s invoice and paid by marijuana dispensaries and retailers.

    California also imposes state taxes and businesses taxes, but those rates vary by location. Check with your tax professional to ensure you're charging the correct taxes.

    How much weed can I buy in California?

    Adults over 21 years of age can buy and possess up to one ounce or 28.5 grams of cannabis and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis, as well as 6 cannabis plants.

    Medical marijuana patients 18 years of age and older can possess up to 8 ounces of dried cannabis and either 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants.

    Where can I buy cannabis in California?

    You can buy cannabis at retail outlets licensed by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control. Medical patients can only buy from licensed medicinal retailers.

    Where can I use cannabis in California?

    You can use cannabis on private property. You can’t use it on any public property in any form. Property owners and landlords can also ban marijuana use on their premises. You are not permitted to use cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, or youth center while children are present.

    Is Flowhub compliant in California?

    Yes, Flowhub is a fully-compliant POS solution for dispensaries in California. Our software can accommodate California’s specific labeling, customer privacy, and purchase limit requirements. Learn more about Flowhub here.

    Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice.

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