Frequently Asked Questions

Is cannabis legal in California? What does “legal cannabis” mean?

Cannabis has been decriminalized for medical use since 1996.

On November 7, 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64 which authorized the possession, transport, purchase, consumption and sharing of up to ounce of cannabis and up to eight grams of cannabis concentrates for adults aged 21 and up.

Adults 21 or older may also grow up to six plants per residence subject to certain restrictions.

The cultivation, possession, sale and use of cannabis in California may remain unlawful under federal law.

Can I consume in public?

No. It is illegal to use, smoke, eat or vape cannabis in public places. It is unlawful to smoke cannabis or cannabis products in places where it is illegal to smoke tobacco.

It is unlawful to use cannabis within 1,000 feet of school, day care center or youth center while children are present.

It is illegal to consume or possess cannabis on federal lands.

Cannabis may be consumed in a private residence. Property owners may ban the use and possession of cannabis on their privately-owned properties.

The City of Los Angeles is currently considering policy that would allow for the limited “onsite consumption” of cannabis at licensed cannabis businesses.

Can I consume while driving a vehicle? Are there “open container” cannabis laws?

No. It is unlawful for a person to consume cannabis while driving. It is also unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to operate a vehicle.

It is unlawful for a person to possess “open containers” of cannabis -- any receptacle containing any cannabis or cannabis products which has been opened or has a seal broken, or loose cannabis flower not in a container -- while driving, unless placed in the trunk of the vehicle.

For a DUI under cannabis, how will the police test intoxication levels?

Currently, law enforcement can conduct a sobriety test on persons suspected of driving under the influence.

The State of California is establishing an Impaired Driving Taskforce to develop policies that will address the issue of impaired driving under the influence of cannabis and shall examine the use of technology to identify drivers under the influence of cannabis.

Can I travel outside of California with cannabis?

No. It is unlawful for a person to transport cannabis across state lines, even when traveling to another state where cannabis is legal.

On January 1, 2018 how can I buy legal cannabis?

You can’t. January 1 marks the first day in which a business can apply for a license to sell cannabis for recreational adult use. Although both patients and consumers can expect the licensing process to take weeks to months, many current medical operators will quickly receive the authorization necessary to begin adult-use sales. The City of Los Angeles will post a list of authorized cannabis businesses online at

Within the City of Los Angeles, the regulation and licensing of cannabis businesses should be considered a process rather than an event – as such it will take time for new businesses to meet the new state and local standards that have been put in place to protect and promote public health and safety.

Legal cannabis will only be available at businesses licensed by the state and authorized by local jurisdictions.

Can I sell cannabis?

Although it is legal for adults 21 or older to possess personal amounts of cannabis, it is illegal to sell cannabis without a state license and local authorization to conduct commercial cannabis activity.

What is commercial cannabis activity?

“Commercial Cannabis Activity” includes the cultivation, possession, manufacture, distribution, processing, storing, laboratory testing, packaging, labeling, transportation, delivery or sale of cannabis and cannabis products as provided for in Division 10 of the California Business and Professions Code as implemented by the California Code or Regulations, as currently defined or as may be amended.

How will cannabis be taxed?

The State of California will impose a 15 percent excise tax on the purchase of medical and “Adult-Use” cannabis. Cultivators will also have to pay a tax on dry flowers ($9.25 per ounce) and dry leaves ($2.75 per ounce).

The City of Los Angeles will impose the following new business taxes effective January 1, 2018:

  • 10% gross receipts from Adult-Use Sales
  • 5%   gross receipts from Medical Sales
  • 1%   gross receipts from Transportation, Testing or Research and
  • 2%   gross receipts from Manufacturing, Cultivation and Other Activities

Will cannabis businesses need both state and local approval?

Yes. Cannabis businesses will need both state licensing and local authorization to legally engage in commercial cannabis activity.

How will cannabis businesses be regulated by the State of California?

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) is the lead agency in developing regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis in California. BCC is responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses.

The Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, a division of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), is responsible for regulating the manufacturers of cannabis-infused edibles for both medical and nonmedical use.

CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, a division of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), is responsible for licensing cultivators of medicinal and adult-use (recreational) cannabis and implementing a track-and-trace system to record the movement of cannabis through the distribution chain.

How will the City of Los Angeles regulate and license commercial cannabis activity?

Measure M, passed by Los Angeles voters in March 2017, gave the City Council full authority to regulate cannabis-related activity with the City of Los Angeles.  In response, the City has established a Department of Cannabis Regulation and a five-member Cannabis Regulation Commission to implement the City’s new cannabis regulatory framework for both medicinal and adult-use businesses.

Is the City of Los Angeles prohibiting any types of commercial cannabis activity?

Outdoor Cultivation and Mixed-Light Cultivation are prohibited within the City of Los Angeles.

Where can licensed cannabis businesses locate?

Licensed cannabis businesses are subject to the location and distancing requirements within the Commercial Cannabis Location Restriction Ordinance.

Generally, licensed cannabis businesses must locate within identified zones where specified types of commercial cannabis activity are eligible to operate.

Furthermore, licensed cannabis businesses must also observe specified distances from sensitive sites, as well as from other commercial cannabis retail activity with onsite sales.

Existing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries that are approved for licensing shall not be subject to the zone, distance and sensitive use restrictions within the Commercial Cannabis Location Restriction ordinance until after December 31, 2022.

Is the City of Los Angeles restricting the number of cannabis businesses or licenses issued?

In order to restrict the number of businesses located in a geographical area of “Undue Concentration”, the City has set a ‘soft cap’ on the number of licenses that will be issued per Community Plan.

If a geographical area has met the maximum number of licenses to be issued under a given Community Plan, the area will be considered to be an area of Undue Concentration.

Applicants with business premises located in an area of Undue Concentration must request the City Council find that approval of the License application would serve public convenience or necessity.

What type of local authorization is required to conduct commercial cannabis activity within the City of Los Angeles?

It is unlawful to operate a cannabis business or engage in commercial cannabis activity within the City of Los Angeles without either a Temporary Approval or a License from the Department of Cannabis Regulation.

Existing medical marijuana dispensaries who apply for “Proposition M Priority Processing” within the appropriate timeframe, will be allowed to continue to operate with limited immunity until a determination is made either approving or denying Temporary Approval.

What’s the difference between Temporary Approval and a License?

In order to responsibly transition cannabis business operators from an unregulated market to a comprehensive regulatory system, the Department of Cannabis Regulation will issue Temporary Approval to certain, qualifying businesses.

Medical Patients and Consumers should be aware that certain cannabis businesses shall receive Temporary Approval prior to meeting all of the new regulatory standards put in place to protect public health and safety.

The Department of Cannabis Regulation will only issue a license to a cannabis business that has received a state license.

When will the Department of Cannabis Regulation begin accepting applications for commercial cannabis activity?

The City’s acceptance of applications for commercial cannabis activity will generally occur in three phases. Can you offer general time frames here?

During Phase 1, applications will be available for Prop M Priority Processing and for Testing licenses.  Business applicants seeking Prop M Priority Processing as described in Section 104.07 are subject to an eligibility determination.

During Phase 2, applications will be available for Non-Retailer Commercial Cannabis Activity Prior to January 1, 2016, Processing. Business applicants seeking Non-Retailer Commercial Cannabis Activity Prior to January 1, 2016 Processing as described in Section 104.08 are subject to an eligibility determination.

During Phase 3, applications will be available for members of the general public.

What is the process for licensing cannabis businesses within the City of Los Angeles?

Generally, businesses must be in good standing with tax payment, pay applicable fees, submit a complete application and submit to a pre-licensing inspection before a licensing determination is made by the Department of Cannabis Regulation and Cannabis Regulation Commission.

Certain businesses must also submit to an eligibility determination, CEQA analysis and a public hearing prior to licensure.

What cannabis licensing fees have been established?

Cannabis licensing fees range from $8,059 to $11,806. More information on cannabis licensing fees can be found in Section 104.19 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code.

How do I submit my licensing application and pay my licensing fee?

To apply for a Temporary Approval or License to engage in Commercial Cannabis Activity, applicants shall file an application online at

Eligible applicants will receive an invoice from DCR with further instructions detailing how to report to the City of Los Angeles’ Office of Finance to make payment and receive either a Temporary Approval or License.

Has a resource been created to inform the public about cannabis in California?

Yes. The California Department of Public Health has established and launched “Let’s Talk Cannabis” a public information campaign to increase awareness about cannabis and its impacts on health.