Here’s what you need to know about legal, safe cannabis use in the state of California
Cannabis is now legal in the state of California for both medicinal and adult use for those 21 and older. Even so, there is a lot of misinformation about cannabis. Uninformed cannabis users may put themselves at risk and inadvertently help support illegal black-market companies, which outnumber legal companies in California by five to one.
Before you decide to buy or consume cannabis, there are some important facts you need to know. As with any substance you choose to take, doing your homework can help you have a safe, effective and enjoyable experience.
Here are some important facts you might not know about cannabis laws and safety.
Key cannabis laws in the state of California
Although recreational cannabis has been legal for adults since January 1, 2018, you still need to keep safety in mind and use it responsibly.
Commercial cannabis is a highly regulated industry, and in California, the Bureau of Cannabis Control is dedicated to its safe, legal use. This agency is responsible for licensing retailers and distributors, inspecting laboratories, and regulating temporary and pop-up cannabis events.
You must be 21 years or older to possess, give, purchase or sell cannabis in California. Laws regarding the legal sale of cannabis vary from county to county, and even from city to city within the same county.
It is against California law to:
— Drive under the influence of cannabis.
— Drive with an open container of cannabis.
— Smoke cannabis in public (or anywhere tobacco is banned).
It is important to remember that possession or sale of cannabis is not legal under federal law.
Recreational versus medicinal use
State law allows individuals 21 and older to possess or buy 1 ounce of cannabis or less, up to six immature cannabis plants or up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate for personal use per day — and you are permitted to buy only from a state-licensed, adult-use cannabis retailer.
The daily limits are different for medical cannabis customers who have a physician’s recommendation. They can purchase up to 8 ounces of medicinal cannabis in the form of dried mature flowers and up to 12 immature cannabis plants (or the amount their physician recommends).
It’s important to keep in mind that just because you have a physician’s recommendation does not mean you’ll get your taxes waived. You must have a state issued MMIC card that was received from your local county office to get the sales and use tax waived, and even then, the state excise tax and local taxes still apply. Beware of “cannabis doctors” who say they can give you a MMIC card: any card not from your county office is not considered official by the state.
Regulations for legal cannabis
A separate state agency, the California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, is responsible for regulating all commercial cannabis manufacturing. The agency ensures “commercial cannabis manufacturers operate safe, sanitary workplaces, and follow good manufacturing practices.” The agency has established regulations to ensure that products are free of contaminants, meet guidelines claimed on the package, and are properly packaged and labeled — so you know what you’re getting.
The agency also regulates the potency of commercial products. The resin of cannabis plants contains tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD, which are both cannabinoids. Different varieties and preparation methods yield different concentrations of these components. THC and CBD interact with a part of the nervous system called the endocannabinoid system, but they have different effects on your body. THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, but CBD doesn’t have that effect.
According to CA law, concentrates (such as capsules, vape cartridges and extracts) have a THC limit of 1,000 milligrams per package for the adult-use market and 2,000 milligrams per package for the medicinal market. Edible cannabis products (such as cookies and gummies) have a THC limit of 10 milligrams per serving and 100 milligrams per package for both medicinal and adult use. Any edible you find that is over 100 milligrams is almost certainly from a black-market company and can be very dangerous for your health and safety.
A third agency, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, a division of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, licenses and regulates commercial cannabis growers in the state. All legal cannabis in California is tracked from cultivation to sale — that’s one reason it’s important to buy only from
How to know you’re purchasing legal cannabis
Researching cannabis businesses in your area is not enough to ensure the business is legal. Black market websites and marketing can look deceptively like that of a legitimate company. Instead, when choosing a retailer, always search the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s database to see whether a business is licensed. A license number is an 11-digit number with a temp or an LIC after it.
You can also check for this statement on your receipt: “The cannabis excise tax is included
in the total amount of this invoice.” Because black-market cannabis will omit excise tax, when an illegal company is raided the state will seize all the records and can make consumers liable for any back taxes not paid – another good reason to make sure you’re buying legal cannabis.
When you visit a dispensary like Weden, you’ll notice a few things that confirm you’re purchasing legal cannabis:
— You’ll pay sales tax and the state’s 15% excise tax. All commercial cannabis products are required to be taxed.
— You’ll see state licenses on display — and that the storefront is clean and staffed with knowledgeable professionals. Weden is especially committed to sharing educational information with customers.
— You’ll observe that products have specifics about THC and CBD content, the strain of cannabis used and other important information. The staff will also be able to inform you about lab-testing results.
Risks and dangers of black-market cannabis
Buying cannabis from a licensed business keeps you safe. State law requires distributors to use a licensed laboratory to test cannabis and cannabis product samples for potency, foreign materials, heavy metals, microbial impurities, mycotoxins, residual pesticides and residual solvents, and processing chemicals. If you buy black-market cannabis, you cannot be sure that your product is free of these potentially harmful substances.
California cannabis is tested more thoroughly than the food we eat, so when you do your homework and make sure you are purchasing from a legal retailer, you can rest assured that the product is clean.
With the right safety and legal knowledge at their disposal, California adults have every reason to make informed decisions about when and how to consume cannabis.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the Doobie Culture Network were not involved in the creation of this content.