Overview of the California's Cannabis Legal Systems

Cannabis legalization in California started in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, by the voters of California. This enacted Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 and authorized the possession and cultivation of cannabis for "personal medical purposes" and also by "primary caregivers."

In 2003, the state legislature passed, and Governor Davis approved, SB420. SB420 established the state ID card program, put in place more specific guidelines for qualified patients and caregivers, established a defense to state criminal charges for collective cultivation, and authorized the state attorney general to issue further guidelines.

In 2008, then Attorney General Jerry Brown issued Guidelines for Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use. These provided additional guidance to collectives on how to operate within the protections of state law.

In 2015, the state legislature passed, in three separate bills, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. It was amended several times, including to change the name to the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. The Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act set in place a comprehensive regulatory program for medical cannabis, including a state licensing program that starts in 2018. It also phased out the SB420 model of collective cultivation.

The three bills that made up the original Act are AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643, all of which were approved by the Governor on October 9, 2015.

The subsequent amendments were as follows:

AB 21 (Approved by Governor February 3, 2016)

SB 837 (Approved by Governor June 27, 2016)

SB 1171 (Approved by Governor July 22, 2016)

AB 821 (Approved by Governor September 29, 2016)

AB 2679 (Approved by Governor September 29, 2016).

On November 8, 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalizing the personal use of cannabis for adults over 21, and creating a regulatory program for nonmedical cannabis. These regulations included a state licensing program for commercial nonmedical cannabis, which largely mirrored the licensing system for medical cannabis in the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.

In June of 2017, SB94, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Brown. The Act repeals much of the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act and incorporates certain provisions of it into the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, integrating California's medical and recreational cannabis regulatory systems. This includes a unified licensing program for cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, testing labs, retail, and microbusinesses.

The complete statutes that make up the Act can be found here.