Adults may now legally purchase cannabis in California

Last update: January 2, 2018


Just under 14 months after California voters adopted Proposition 64 — formally ending marijuana prohibition in the Golden State — adults 21 and over may now enter licensed retail stores and purchase cannabis. The first retail stores began sales for adult consumers on January 1, marking another historic moment in our nation’s move away from the failure of cannabis prohibition.

Opening day was modest. State regulators spent much of 2017 developing the program, made more complicated by the fact that lawmakers brought both the medical and non-medical program under the authority of the newly-formed Bureau of Cannabis Control. In addition, many local jurisdictions had not finished the process of considering and rolling out their own rules. By the start of 2018, only about 90 retail shops were operational. In the coming months, that number is likely to grow significantly.

2018 will be a key year. Some have predicted that California’s non-medical market could see total revenue of between $4-7 billion annually. Stay tuned as the state’s program ramps up. If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for our email alerts to stay current on latest events!

The current legal status of marijuana in California


Until the 2016 Election Day vote, possessing up to an ounce or less of marijuana was a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket. Following the vote, possession of an ounce or less and the secure cultivation of up to six plants is lawful for all adults 21 and over.

While California had already reduced penalties before the vote, the state still punished tens of thousands of responsible adults each year for possessing a substance that is objectively safer than both alcohol and tobacco. A study released by the Drug Policy Foundation reported that despite the reduction in penalties, state law enforcement still arrested over half a million people in the past 10 years on marijuana-related charges, a huge number of which are minorities.

California stopped wasting precious resources citing, arresting, and prosecuting marijuana offenders and is now in the process of ensuring the profits of marijuana sales go to responsible businesses and state budgets, instead of the pockets of criminals.

At the same time, the state’s medical marijuana protections continue, and a regulatory system is being implemented for medical marijuana businesses in tandem with the non-medical program, but without the same tax burden.

Timeline of marijuana policy reform in California


1996: Voters approved the Compassionate Use Act, allowing for the medical use of marijuana

2003: California’s legislature expanded the state’s medical marijuana law to allow patients and caregivers to collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana

2015: California’s legislature enacted a licensing and regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses

2016: Voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for adults and establishing a regulated marijuana market

2017: Licensing and regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses is paired with similar regulatory system being developed for non-medical, now under one agency

2018: First legal sales for adult consumers begin!

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