A concise cannabis guide: History, laws and regulations
California Agriculture 73(3):103-103. https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.2019a0022
Published online September 12, 2019
An overview of key cannabis laws and regulations in California.
The Marijuana Tax Act is signed into federal law. The Act, though it does not explicitly outlaw cannabis, establishes tight restrictions that effectively prohibit its sale and use.
The Controlled Substances Act, a federal law, establishes schedules that categorize drugs according to their perceived medical utility and potential for abuse. Cannabis, along with heroin and LSD, is assigned to the highly restrictive Schedule I. As a result, even scientists face great difficulty in obtaining cannabis for research purposes.
California voters approve the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing medical cannabis in the state. For the next 19 years, California's medical cannabis industry operates essentially unregulated.
The California Legislature passes and Gov. Brown signs the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (later renamed the “Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act”). The law establishes a three-agency regulatory structure for cannabis activities.
California voters approve Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalizes on the state level the cultivation, possession, sale and use of recreational cannabis.
The Legislature passes the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, integrating Proposition 64 and the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, thus establishing a combined regulatory system for medical and adult-use cannabis in California.
California's cannabis regulators
What cannabis activities are allowed — and where?
While state law provides for the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis and its sale in retail stores, cities and counties may pass ordinances banning these activities. Localities without explicit bans on cannabis activities also may effectively ban them through, for example, zoning ordinances (certain activities, such as delivery of cannabis from a different jurisdiction, may not be banned). The table below gives examples of what is allowed in a few cities and counties.