Prop 64 Laws: All You Need to Know About the CA MMJ Card

In November 2016, the state of California legalized the adult use of marijuana. Proposition 64 passed with a vote of 57% to 43%. The proposition is famously referred to as Prop 64. It effectively made it legal for California residents to use and possess up to 1 oz of marijuana. It also allowed for the legal and taxable sale of recreational marijuana, which began on January 1, 2018.

However, those are only the generalized terms of Prop 64. There are nuances and subtleties of the law that you should be aware of before heading to the Golden State. This article outlines Prop 64 in greater detail to help make you more familiar with marijuana laws in California.

What Is Proposition 64?

Prop 64 is a voter initiative (state resident) proposition that started in 2016. The aim was to legalize the adult use and possession of cannabis in California. It was officially titled the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA), or more thoroughly, the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”

Several prominent politicians from both major parties also endorsed the initiative.

The group that sponsored the initiative revealed that it had gathered 600,000 signatures by May 2016. This was enough to bring Proposition 64 to the ballot. The Secretary of State certified it for the November 2016 ballot in June. Several prominent politicians from both major parties also endorsed the initiative.

Residents of the state voted on it on November 9, 2016. It passed by a total count of 7,979,041 votes (57.13%) to 5,987,020 (42.87%). This was no surprise as supporters of Proposition 64 spent almost 15 times more on their campaign than their opponents.

Prop 64 Overview

As expected, the proposition sent a clear message to federal officials in Washington regarding the country’s general stance on cannabis. Here are the most important things you need to know about Prop 64 and legal marijuana laws in California:


  • Adult California residents (age 21 and over) can “possess, transport, obtain or give away to other adults no more than one ounce of marijuana, or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis.” Concentrated cannabis refers to high-potency extracts like oils, shatters, dabs, butters, and waxes.
  • It is now legal for adult CA residents to “cultivate up to six plants per residence and possess the marijuana produced by these plants.”

However, all self-cultivated harvests above one ounce must be kept inside the residence, out of public view. Moreover, individual county governments in the state may prohibit outdoor cultivation. On the plus side, they must allow it indoors as long as it’s “…inside a private residence or accessory structure that is fully enclosed and secure.”

What Does Prop 64 Mean for CA Residents Who Already Have A Medical Marijuana Card?

California residents with an MMJ card remain legally covered under Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Use Act. Under Prop 215:

  • Patients with a medical marijuana card in California can possess and cultivate as much marijuana as is needed upon their physician’s recommendation. The six plants/one-ounce rule for recreational growers does not apply to those with a valid MMJ card.

However, medical patients must also remain wary of local county laws. According to the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), local governments can restrict cultivation via a “nuisance ordinance.”

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What Does Prop 64 Mean for Retail Marijuana Sales in California?

Prop 64 has made it legal for approved companies to manufacture, market, and sell taxable cannabis products in state-licensed dispensaries. This includes products such as buds/flower, edibles, oils, and concentrates.

Out-of-state visitors aged 21+ can also purchase and use legal marijuana inside California state lines. It is the same situation as other recreational states such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

According to the State Board of Equalization (and published by CANORML), MMJ cardholders are exempt from state sales tax when purchasing marijuana in state-licensed dispensaries. California residents that spend over $100 per month on marijuana should consider getting a medical marijuana card. That is if they use cannabis for any medical reason. They will likely save money in the long run.

California residents that spend over $100 per month on marijuana should consider getting a medical marijuana card.

Here’s a quick look at some of the marijuana taxation in California at present:

  • 15% state excise tax on retail sales.
  • State sales tax of 7.25%. MMJ cardholders don’t pay this.
  • Automatic local sales tax of up to 1%.
  • Cultivation tax of $9.65 per ounce of dried flower.
  • Local cannabis business taxes of up to 15% depending on the jurisdiction.

What Prop 64 Does NOT Cover Under California Law

Proposition 64 legislation has legalized recreational cannabis. However, this doesn’t mean the state is now a marijuana free for all. Here are some essential things to keep in mind in terms of what you CANNOT do under current laws:

  • You may not consume marijuana in public places. You pay a $100 fine if you are caught using cannabis in public. Certain businesses have a commercial cannabis consumption license. It is legal to use marijuana on the premises of any business with such a license.
  • You may not smoke or use a vaporizer in a designated non-smoking area (i.e., restaurants, public buildings, etc.) The same fees and penalties apply to smoking tobacco in a designated non-smoking area.
  • You may not consume marijuana within 1,000 feet of any school, daycare, or youth center while children are present. However, private locations can set their own rules. Getting caught using cannabis within 1,000 feet of children at these locations may result in a $100 fine.
  • You may not consume or possess marijuana in an “open container” while in a motor vehicle (including cars, boats, airplanes, or other motor vehicles). This may result in a $250 fine.
  • You may not manufacture (unless you are a state-licensed dispensary) cannabis extracts using a “volatile solvent.” (Check out this article for more information on dangerous solvent extractions).
  • You may not “possess, use, transport, or cultivate marijuana” if you are a minor under the age of 21. There is a potential $100 fine, along with mandatory drug counseling or community service for minors under the age of 18.
  • You may not possess more than an ounce of cannabis without a valid California MMJ card. Possession of more than this amount is still subject to criminal punishment (misdemeanor). You could also receive a $500 fine and a potential prison sentence of six months.
  • You may not cultivate more than six plants, transport more than an ounce of cannabis, or sell (or otherwise distribute) cannabis for compensation. These infractions have been downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors, except in certain “aggravating circumstances.

Even with the implementation of Prop 64, property owners may still forbid the use or possession of marijuana on their property. Also, employers may still prohibit the use of cannabis. They can terminate employment contracts if the employee uses cannabis against company policy.

Suppose you have a prior criminal conviction for use or possession of marijuana. In that case, you may petition the state court to “have your record changed to what it would be if Prop 64 had been in effect.”

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