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Everything You Need to Know to Buy Legal Weed in California

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Want to smoke a joint in California? Right this way.

Recreational cannabis use is legal in California—and now, shops are licensed to sell it. But who can buy it? Where can you smoke it? We answer all your burning questions.

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C an you legally buy a beer? Congratulations! That means you can also legally buy cannabis (pot, weed, marijuana ) in California. Decriminalization came into effect on January 1, 2018, after voters passed Proposition 64 in November 2016. California joins Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, Alaska, Maine, and Nevada in legalizing recreational cannabis use, making the state the largest legal marijuana market in the country.

Here’s what you need to know about getting high in the Golden State.

Who can buy legal weed?

You have to be 21 or older to buy recreational cannabis products (we’ll get to them in a bit) and present a valid ID—a driver’s license or a passport will do just fine—upon entering a marijuana dispensary. People with a medical marijuana card issued by a doctor must be 18.

Potany 101

Marijuana plants come in two main branches, indica and sativa. Indicas bring the body buzz, promoting relaxation. They are typically lower in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and higher in cannabidiol (CBD) levels. THC is pot’s psychoactive element that fosters a feeling of higher energy levels and euphoria. CBD doesn’t cause a person to feel high and has a muting effect on THC. Sativas are typically the inverse of indicas, having higher THC levels and lower CBD levels, causing a trippier high. A third branch, hybrids, are crossbred plants that produce effects of both indica and sativas.

What products can I buy?

Cannabis products are broken down into four main categories: flower, concentrates, edibles, and applications.

Flower refers to the plant itself—the dried buds of a marijuana plant—and comes in a seemingly endless variety of strains, each with clever monikers such as LA Confidential, Granddaddy Purple, or Nina Limon. Leafly is an excellent app and online resource to better know your strains. Flower is meant to be smoked either in joints or out of a pipe or bong.

Concentrates include a range of products made from trichome extractions taken from a pot plant. (Trichomes are those sparkly little crystals that cover mature plants.) Concentrates pack a more powerful punch than flower and are sometimes used to top off flower in a joint or bowl. The extracts come in a variety of forms, including kief, wax, and oils. One of the easiest ways to enjoy an extraction is with a vape pen. They’re sold in a nifty kit that includes a cartridge containing the oil, a rechargeable battery that powers the pen, and a charger that plugs into your laptop. Popular cartridge brands include Bloom Farms , Legion of Bloom , and Dosist.

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Edibles are just that: food that has extractions incorporated into their manufacturing process. Look for cookies, gummy candies, lollipops, chocolate-covered anything (dried fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and raisins are popular), and even cannabis-infused drinks such as sodas, hot cocoa mixes, and cold-brewed coffee. While smoking brings on immediate effects, the effects of an edible can take as long as two hours to be felt and last much longer than simply smoking. Because it can take some time, people sometimes make the rookie mistake of over-consuming edibles. Don’t be that person. Kiva and Satori manufacture low-dose edible products. Start with those if that’s your thing.

Applications use extractions to target medical conditions primarily. High CBD products such as tinctures and patches are used to alleviate physical pain, anxiety, and even depression.

In California, you’ll need to visit a licensed dispensary to buy cannabis products. If you’re at a dispensary to purchase recreational weed, remember that it’s a medical facility first and foremost, so don’t whip out your phone to take a selfie. Respect patients’ right to privacy.

Also, bring cash. Although some dispensaries do accept credit cards, many do not.

When you get to a dispensary (use an app or site like Weedmaps to locate one near you), you’ll have to check in at the front desk with your ID to prove you’re of age, then you’ll need to wait your turn. Since recreational marijuana became available in California, long lines have formed at dispensaries, especially on weekends, overwhelmed by demand. Patience is key.

Once your name is called by one of the “budtenders,” take as much time as you need to discuss what kind of experience you’re looking for. Do you want to mellow out, or do you want to laugh and explore? The people behind the counter are well-informed and can talk in-depth about different products and will direct you to the item that’s right for you.

Can I get weed delivered?

An alternate method for purchasing is using an app-based delivery service like Eaze. Go online or download it to your phone, create a brief user profile, upload your ID, then order away. Typically your product is delivered within an hour after placing your order, a convenient service for travelers staying at hotels or people who aren’t quite ready to come out as a cannabis user. Some dispensaries also offer delivery services. In the San Francisco Bay Area, places like the Apothecarium publish their full daily menu online and offer both delivery and in-store pickups, the latter helping to cut down on wait times.

Where can I smoke my weed?

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Here’s the tricky part. While it’s legal to have recreational marijuana, it’s not legal to consume it in public places, just like alcohol. That being said, enforcement is a low priority for police, and, if enforced, a ticket comes with a relatively low $70 penalty.

While the law doesn’t allow it, societal norms in major cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco do foster public consumption. Visit any urban park on a sunny weekend day, and the scent of marijuana will come wafting by at some point. Discretion is key.

Right now there are a few public cannabis consumption spaces, or “social consumption lounges” (SCLs), where you can legally smoke indoors. So far, the Bay Area has the most SCLs, but more are coming to Southern California soon. Expect the trend to grow quickly in the coming months and years.

Another option is to stay in an Airbnb that allows it. Even though they don’t have a filter for it (yet), a search of Airbnb for “420 friendly” will bring up listings of properties that allow guests to consume. Two sites, TravelTHC and Bud and Breakfast , market accommodations targeted specifically at pot enthusiasts.

Finally, consider a cannabis tour. Currently operating tours in San Diego, West Coast Cannabis Tours offers half-day jaunts that include visits to dispensaries and breweries, all on groovy, decked-out private buses on which you’re allowed and encouraged to enjoy your purchases. The company is developing new tours in LA and Orange County, set to launch later in 2018. In the Bay Area, Emerald Farm Tours offers a seed-to-sale tour , where participants visit a cannabis farm, a manufacturing plant, and a retail shop all in one day. The company plans to expand its tour offerings .

But what about the feds?

While medicinal or recreational cannabis use is legal in the majority of states, it is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. In fact, it’s still a Schedule I drug on the federal level, putting it in the same category as cocaine or heroin. You can’t ship it or send it in the mail, and you absolutely cannot fly with it. For more details on federal law concerning cannabis, Americans for Safe Access is a great resource.

If you want to make sure you know every little detail on recreational marijuana use in California before you consume, visit GreenState , an online publication dedicated solely to the subject. But if you’re ready to explore the world of legal recreational cannabis, it’s high time you get to California (or Canada).

This article originally appeared online on March 1, 2018; it was updated on October 16, 2019, to include current information.

Here's everything you need to know before you buy cannabis for recreational use in California, such as how to buy it, where to smoke it, and how it's grown and processed.

Your Los Angeles to Las Vegas Weed Vacation Guide

Planning your Los Angeles to Las Vegas Weed Vacation

If you live in L.A., you’ve recently been blessed with the right to buy marijuana recreationally thanks to Prop 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. You might enjoy cannabis at home, but what do you need to know before you go on your Las Vegas vacation?

Vegas may have looser restrictions on activities like gambling and public drinking, but that doesn’t mean it shares the same open laws as California regarding marijuana consumption. The first thing you need to do before planning your vacation is to know the differences between California and Nevada state marijuana laws and how they impact your stay.

What is the difference between California and Nevada marijuana laws?

California Nevada
Recreational Age Limit 21 21
Medical Age limit 18 with State green card 18 with State green card
May recreationally possess Up to an ounce of flower Up to an ounce of flower
May recreationally possess 8 grams of concentrate 3.5 grams of concentrate
Public cannabis ingestion violation $100 infraction Misdemeanor – $1000 maximum fine + jail time
Cannabis ingestion in non-smoking area violation $250 Fine A separate citation in addition to a cannabis ingestion violation
Cannabis open container while driving violation $250 Fine Fine + up to 6 months in jail
Driving or riding in a vehicle while on cannabis $70 Fine. Civil forfeiture laws apply. License suspense. Up to $1000 fine + 6 months in jail
Can legally consume In a private residence only In a private residence only

As you can see, there is a big difference in consequences for violating state marijuana laws. Visit NORML for a complete list of Nevada marijuana laws & penalties. What else will you want to make sure to do before and during your stay?

Additional Nevada marijuana laws to follow:

The issues listed above don’t cover the entirety of California and Nevada marijuana law differences—they are just the laws most likely to be of concern for a CA or NV resident. Follow these additional rules to help you stay on the safe side of legal cannabis consumption.

  • Do not sell marijuana flower, edibles, or concentrates to anyone, that includes friends, family, and acquaintances. Even a very small amount can be considered a felony crime, especially if the buyer is not of legal consumption age.

You can however gift the state limit to someone who is legally of age, 18 in the case of a Medical Marijuana card holder and 21 without.

  • Do not transport marijuana across state lines in any form. Because marijuana is still not federally recognized, even transporting cannabis between California and Nevada (two states where it is legal to possess cannabis), is still an illegal action with serious consequences.

Image by Tony Webster

Where can you smoke marijuana in Las Vegas?

If you’re coming from your private residence in Los Angeles to enjoy cannabis in Vegas, it can be a shock. You may be wondering where you can consume cannabis and whether or not you’ll be stuck with edibles your entire vacation.

There are a growing variety of marijuana-friendly lodging sites and companies based in Las Vegas. Using these sites for your hotel booking is the easiest way to guarantee you can consume cannabis products without worry. Your best bet for safe cannabis consumption is to choose a privately-rented AirBnB style accommodation. This is one of the fastest growing options for California tourists looking for a great place to enjoy Vegas and its greenery.

Is my California medical marijuana card valid in Nevada?

Yes. Nevada has reciprocity, meaning medical marijuana cards from all other states are accepted.

If you’re flying in from LAX to McCarran International Airport, you don’t want to wait long to start relaxing after you arrive. The Grove is the closest dispensary to the McCarran International Airport, making it the easiest, and first stop you should make.

Where can I find a cannabis tour in Las Vegas?

Cannabis tours are a growing business. There are two different types of tours, those for growing operations/facilities and tours of local Vegas dispensaries. Choose based on your interest. If you want to see the best cannabis products the Vegas Strip has to offer, a dispensary tour is your best bet. If you grow yourself, are interested in the business/botanical side, or just want a deeper understanding of seed to smoke—go with a growing facility tour.

• View award-winning dispensaries with a Cannabus Tour. – Hopping on the Cannabus is one of the easiest ways to see a lot of dispensaries in a short amount of time. You’ll get educated on local and marijuana-specific history as you shuttle from place to place. You’ll also get VIP access to each dispensary you visit and a 20% discount on your purchases.

• Book with Cannabis Tours and see the city. – One of the coolest ways to see a city is with a hop on, hop off tour. Cannabis Tours offers a hop on, hop off tour bus that runs from 7 p.m. to midnight. Jumping on and off as you please lets you get a fuller experience. If you find a dispensary you love and want to stay at, hop off and jump on the next passing tour bus.

• Bring your friends or go alone on an Herbology Tour. – Herbology is a deluxe option. Night group tours, VIP tours, and airport pickups are all available. If you want a more personalized experience, this is the company to provide it. They even offer a beer & buds option that can accommodate non-users as well.

Can I bring cannabis products on an airplane?

No. Airports are under federal jurisdiction and Lorie Dankers, TSA Spokesperson has this to say on the matter: “The passenger’s originating and destination airports are not taken into account. TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport — regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized.”

If flower, concentrates, or edibles are discovered during a security check, local Airport Law Enforcement will be called in. They operate according to federal guidelines, and the punishment will likely be much more severe than it would under California or Nevada State marijuana laws.

Where can you get rid of cannabis products in a Las Vegas airport?

If you didn’t finish everything you purchased or forgot about the gram you tucked into a zipper pocket, you’re in luck. McCarran International Airport has installed Amnesty Boxes. These bright green boxes look similar to mailboxes. They provide a place to safely discard cannabis product leftovers without the fear of prosecution.

Planning a weed vacation from LA to Vegas? Learn the difference between NV and CA marijuana laws, find the best lodging, and schedule a dispensary tour!