Term: Cannabis in California
Cannabis in California has been legal for medical use since 1996, and for recreational use since late 2016. The state of California has been at the forefront of efforts to liberalize cannabis laws in the United States, beginning in 1972 with the nation's first ballot initiative attempting to legalize cannabis (Proposition 19). Although it was unsuccessful, California would later become the first state to legalize medical cannabis with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Proposition 215). In November 2016, California voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.
As a result of recreational legalization, local governments (city and county) may not prohibit adults from growing, using, or transporting marijuana for personal use. Commercial activities can be regulated or prohibited by local governments although deliveries cannot be prohibited. Following recreational legalization, existing growers and suppliers of medical cannabis were required to register, comply with regulations, and apply for permits. Over half of the nonprofit dispensaries legally providing medical marijuana closed. Local agencies have been slow to approve retail stores selling cannabis for recreational purposes with most cities and counties banning retail with a wait and see approach. Many existing growers have been slow to apply for permits as it has been estimated that 60 percent or more of all cannabis consumed in the United States comes from northern California. The export of marijuana to other states remains illegal since the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers it a Schedule I drug.
Reducing illegal activity is considered essential for the success of legal operations who pay the considerable taxes assessed by state and local authorities. Many people do not have nearby retail stores selling cannabis and continue to buy from unlicensed sellers. Illegal growing continues in remote rural areas. Raids and confiscation by law enforcement of illegal retail and grow operations has continued and in some cases stepped up after legalization.
California's main regulatory agencies were initially the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), Department of Food and Agriculture, and Department of Public Health. Their responsibilities were merged under the Department of Cannabis Control in 2021.