1. In general

Is it illegal to be on drugs in public?

You may not be so high on drugs (or alcohol) that you are unable to exercise care for your own or others’ safety. It is also illegal if your intoxication leads you to block or prevent the use of the sidewalk or public street.1Cal Penal Code Sec 647(f)

Can I drive while on a legal or prescribed drug?

It is illegal to drive while “under the influence” of any drug, whether legal or illegal.2Vehicle Code Sec 23152 It is also illegal to actively smoke pot while driving.


Is it legal to purchase or use marijuana in California?Marijuana

In California, if you are 21 or older, it is legal to purchase and use a certain amount of marijuana (aka cannabis) for any purpose, whether medical or recreational. You don’t need any special card or anything to buy or use it.

If you are 18 years old or older, you can only buy marijuana with a medical marijuana card.

Current marijuana law in California is based on Prop 64 which passed in November 2016.3Prop 64

Note about federal lands: Marijuana is still NOT legal for any purpose on federal lands within California, such as national parks. This is because federal law still says marijuana is illegal (see below).

How much can I possess and grow?

You may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and you may cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants in your home. Plants at home must not be visible from a public place.4Possessing more than 1 ounce or more than 6 plants at home can subject you to up to 6 months in jail and/or $500 fine

You may NOT possess any pot on the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.

Can I smoke pot in public?

No, you will be subject to a $100 fine.

Can I take pot on a plane?

If you will be using a federally regulated airport, then no.

Can I take pot to another state?

No you can’t take pot across state laws, under federal law.

What if I’m not 21 yet?

If you are not 21, you may not legally purchase, use or possess ANY marijuana.5If you are between 18-21 you can get fined $100 for use or possession; if you are younger than 18 you can be referred to drug counseling and community service

BUT if you are 18 or older, it is legal to purchase, use and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, but you need a “written or oral recommendation” (generally, a prescription) from a doctor. Patients and/or their primary caregivers may possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana and/or 6 mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants, unless larger amounts are recommended by a doctor.6California Compassionate Use Act 1996, Cal. Health & Saf. Code, § 11362.5 (1996) (codifying voter initiative Prop. 215); Cal. Health & Saf. Code, §§ 11362.7 – 11362.83 (2003) (codifying SB 420)

What are the laws regarding selling marijuana?

Currently in California it is legal to sell recreational marijuana, but you must get a license to do so, and comply with regulations. Selling marijuana without a license can subject you to up to 6 months in county jail, and/or $500 fine, and/or civil penalties for each transaction! So don’t do it.

See more rules for marijuana businesses.

If I buy marijuana from a shop, can I use it there?

It is up to each city or county to decide this. In the city of LA, currently it is NOT legal to use marijuana on-site at a pot shop. But the City Council is considering changing that.

Doesn’t federal law still say marijuana is illegal?

Technically, yes, federal law prohibits marijuana use and possession even for medical use. But currently the federal government has decided NOT to enforce these laws against those who are following state law. Could that change under a Trump administration? Possibly…

3. Prescription Drugs

Are there any restrictions on doctors giving out prescription medications?

Yes. Before initially prescribing (and every 4 months thereafter) narcotic painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicoden, etc., and steroids, sleep aids, and psychiatric medication, doctors and nurses must now check an electronic database for signs of drug abuse.7SB 482

4. Other drugs

What drugs are illegal in California?

Other than marijuana, most drugs that are not prescribed by a licensed medical doctor are illegal to possess, sell, or manufacture, including methamphetamine (“meth” or “crystal”),8CA Health & Safety Code 11377,11378 cocaine (“coke”, including salt or powder, crack cocaine, or coca leaves),9CA Health & Safety Code 11350, 11351, 11351.5 heroin and similar drugs (Raw opium, opium poppy and straw, as well as its derivatives morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine),10CA Health & Safety Code 11350, 11351, 11351.5 ketamine,11CA Health and Safety Code 11377 MDMA (“ecstasy” or “X”)12Health and Safety Code 11377, psilocybin mushrooms (“shrooms”),13Health and Safety Code 11377 LSD/acid,14Health and Safety Code 11377 peyote or mescaline,15Health and Safety Code 11377, PCP16Health and Safety Code 11377.


What is the punishment for using or selling drugs?

In general, the punishment for possessing for personal use of most of the above is up to 1 year in county jail (misdemeanors). Note: While it used to be considered potentially a “felony” with prison of several years, this was recently changed by voters passing Prop 47 in 2014.

For selling any of the above, the punishment is generally up to 4 years in state prison. 17Health and Safety Code 11377-78, 113500-11356.5



What You Need To Know About Alcohol Laws

Rules for Marijuana Businesses in California

What You Should Know About Smoking and Vaping Laws


For more on the laws about using or possessing weed, see the California Department of Public Health website on that topic.

See more on marijuana laws and procedures for businesses at the Bureau of Cannabis Control website.

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