How to Get Marijuana in California [Step by Step Guide]

June 24, 2018

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How to Get Marijuana in California

California has entered a whole new era of legal marijuana, and the days of prohibition are fading into the past. Although marijuana has been legal for medical reasons in the state since 1996, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, also known as Proposition 64, was only approved by California voters on 8 November 2016. “Adult use” means that cannabis is now legal in California for any adult, 21 years of age or older, who wishes to use weed, with a doctor’s recommendation or not. In other words, it is legal for recreational use.

While this law was initially passed in 2016, it took the state until January 2018 to begin licensing dispensaries for the sale of recreational marijuana, and, of course, a lot of questions still remain. California isn’t just transitioning from a medical cannabis-only state to a fully recreational one, but it’s also transitioning from a mostly unregulated market to a tightly controlled regime. There are now several rules, laws, and regulations governing exactly where and how you can use and buy marijuana.

But essentially, as of 6 am on 1 January 2018, anyone who is old enough to drink alcohol is legally able to purchase marijuana. California became the 6th state to allow marijuana to be sold in licensed shops to anyone with an ID showing that they’re 21 or older – just like buying alcohol from a liquor store. Here is everything you need to know about getting marijuana in California.

The Difference Between Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana

Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between medical and recreational marijuana. These two differ in several ways, ranging from the actual chemical makeup of the drug to the reasons for use and its legality. Medical marijuana uses the whole, unprocessed cannabis plant, or the chemicals found in the plant, to treat symptoms of medical conditions. Recreational marijuana, on the other hand, is weed that is used without medical justification.

The cannabis plant is made up of over 100 chemicals, known as cannabinoids. Each of these cannabinoids has a different effect on the body. The two most well-known chemicals are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive component of pot, meaning that it produces the high, while CBD does not produce any psychoactive effects.

Typically, medical marijuana has a higher content of CBD, so when you use it, you don’t experience the euphoria that’s associated with its recreational counterpart. Recreational marijuana has a higher THC content, since this is the compound that provides users with the “high” that they are looking for.

There are, of course, also some significant differences when it comes to the legality of medical marijuana vs. recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in nine states including California, and medical marijuana is legal in another 29 states. If you require marijuana for medicinal reasons, you will need to obtain a doctor’s recommendation, confirming that cannabis could potentially help treat your condition, while no doctor’s letter is required for recreational marijuana. Ultimately, if you live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, you won’t need any paperwork to get your hands on some pot.

The Marijuana Law in California

Although recreational marijuana is now legal in California, the law doesn’t offer the complete freedom to buy, smoke, or grow marijuana anywhere you, please. In reality, the rules and regulations are relatively strict. But, perhaps the biggest complication is that marijuana still remains illegal on a federal level.

According to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64), the law permits any adult 21 years of age or over to purchase, possess, and consume up to one ounce of cannabis either in their private residence or in an establishment that is licensed for cannabis consumption. An ounce of weed is enough to fill a few dozen joints. Alternatively, you are able to buy up to eight grams of cannabis concentrates that can be found in marijuana edibles such as brownies, candy, and breakfast bars.

The number of edibles that you are legally allowed to possess will depend on the product itself. For instance, a can of cannabis butter contains more concentrates than a single edible. Therefore concentrate-heavy products may push the carrier over the legal limit.

Regardless of what type of cannabis you want to purchase, you will need to find a licensed dispensary that is approved for recreational sale. The Medicinal and Adult-use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act* is the law that regulates the commercial marijuana activity in California. It requires that anyone who is engaged in commercial marijuana activity is licensed and allows the local government to control what activities are permitted in their jurisdiction.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC)* is responsible for licensing distributors, testing labs, retailers, and micro businesses. They have a complete and updated list of licensed dispensaries available on their website.

Also important to note is that dispensaries who are only licensed to sell medical marijuana won’t be able to serve you unless you are a patient with a valid doctor’s recommendation or a medical marijuana card. State law also requires that dispensaries close by 10 pm, so don’t expect to get your hands on some pot at 1 am.

Understanding medical vs. recreational marijuana dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries have been designed to give patients a safe location to procure information and marijuana grown to treat medical conditions. They’re usually taxed and regulated differently to recreational marijuana outlets, and therefore the price of cannabis usually varies between the two. Also, the interior design of a medical dispensary is usually closer to that of a doctor’s office, rather than a typical storefront. You will need to come prepared with the correct documentation and questions related to marijuana and your illness when visiting a medical dispensary.

Recreational dispensaries, on the other hand, require fewer prerequisites than a medical dispensary. Here is what you should know before setting foot inside a recreational dispensary:

  • You must be at least 21-years old to purchase cannabis.
  • You are required to show your valid, unexpired state ID to make a purchase.
  • Many stores make menus available on their website or while you stand in the queue.
  • It’s advisable to do your research prior to visiting the dispensary.

Ultimately, anyone who meets the above requirements can buy marijuana from a recreational dispensary. However, you will need to have a doctor’s recommendation to purchase from a medical dispensary. The main differences between the two will be the price, the store design and typically the type of marijuana on sale.

Getting a medical marijuana card in California

Have you ever heard of NuggMD? If not, you might want to familiarize yourselves with them. This is a unique medical marijuana clinic in San Francisco that are revolutionizing the marijuana industry for medical patients all around California. NuggMD eliminates the hassle of having to find a cannabis facility, go all the way to them, and get together all the necessary paperwork to deal with a physician who might not even care about your treatment.

NuggMD has created an online method of getting your medical marijuana card, from the comfort of your own home. It’s quick, easy and very possible to get your card the same day that you apply for it. Since this is an online service, you can submit your paperwork 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For any further information, you can check out the NuggMD website.

Other marijuana laws to consider

There seems to be much misconception around whether the purchasing limit differs for medical versus recreational marijuana. It does. You might think about getting a medical marijuana card if you think you will need more than an ounce of marijuana at a time, or if you would like to grow more than six plants per household. Also, medical users may be able to buy more potent products than recreational users. For this reason, patients who rely heavily on marijuana for pain management may find a medical card useful. A card also offers more flexibility; for instance, you can only buy recreational marijuana from a recreational dispensary, but patients with a medical card can buy from any dispensary.

For recreational users, there is currently no official tracking system used between dispensaries to keep tabs on how much cannabis you purchase per day. So technically, you could go to every dispensary and buy up to an ounce, and nobody would question you. However, bear in mind that you are only allowed to carry an ounce of marijuana on you. If you’re caught with more, you risk jail time.

Here are some other important basics of California marijuana laws:

  • Those 18-years and over who possess more than an ounce of marijuana or eight grams of concentrates may be imprisoned in county jail for up to six months and/or fined up to $500.
  • Anyone who is selling cannabis but isn’t licensed to is committing a misdemeanor. This can result in up to six months in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.
  • Any person who engages in commercial marijuana activity without a license is subject to civil penalties up to three times the total of the license fee for each violation. Each day of operation constitutes a separate violation.
  • There are other limitations to possessing and smoking cannabis, even if a person is over the age of 21. These include but are not limited to; ingesting or smoking marijuana in public, smoking or ingesting while operating a vehicle, and having in their possession an open container while operating or riding as a passenger in a vehicle.

Final thoughts on getting marijuana in California

The legalization of cannabis in California, despite its continued prohibition at the federal level, has no doubt created some confusion. Keep in mind that, although marijuana has been legalized, there are still ways to be in violation of the law. These include growing or possessing more than is allowed or failing to comply with the regulations that govern commercial marijuana activities.

In some cases, it could still be worthwhile to get yourself a medical marijuana card – if you have a qualifying medical condition, since it may allow you to purchase larger amounts and more potent strains. Whichever option is right for you, make sure that you are on the right side of the law.


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About the Author
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Amanda Kaye, age 31, is a cannabis enthusiast who suffers from chronic back pain and anxiety. Amanda is the chief editor for MMJ Card Online and her goal is to create unbiased and informative articles that provide information to anyone who seeks help in obtaining a medical marijuana card.
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