History of Cannabis Law in California

2017: Senate Bill 94: Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA)

Previous to 2017, California had two Acts that regulated cannabis activity, Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (“MCRSA”) for medical activity and Adult-Use of Marijuana Act (Prop 64 or “AUMA”) for adult-use activity. To integrate the two Acts, the legislature passed a budget trailer bill, Senate Bill 94, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act “MAUCRSA”, in June of 2017 (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 26000 et seq.). Under MAUCRSA, a single regulatory system governs the cannabis industry in California. On January 1, 2018, the state began issuing licenses for medicinal and adult-use cannabis activities.

Find Senate Bill 94 in full: here


2016: Prop 64: The Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)

Voted into law by California voters November 8, 2016, Prop 64 regulates recreational marijuana. AUMA legalized the nonmedicinal adult use of cannabis; established California’s framework for the licensing, regulation, and enforcement of commercial nonmedicinal cannabis activity; and set a date of January 1, 2018, for governmental issuance of licenses.

Find Prop 64 in full: here


2016: Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA)

After the passage of MMRSA, many smaller bills were passed to amend or add to the content (such as AB 2516 which authorizes specialty cottage licenses) and MMRSA officially became MCRSA.


2015: Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA)

In October of 2015 the California State government passed and approved a set of laws that regulated medical marijuana use for commercial cannabis activity. The bulk of these laws came in three different bills, SB 643, AB243, and AB 266 known collectively as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, or MMRSA for short.

If you have any questions or need help navigating the California code of laws you should contact the Scot Candell & Associates and speak with an attorney.

More information on this to come…

For the full text of the bills click the following links: SB 643AB 243AB 266


2010: Proposition 19: Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Prop. 19 was a ballot initiative that was defeated by California voters in November of 2010, 53.5% to 46.5%. If approved it would have legalized regulated and decriminalized various marijuana-related activities. The official summary of the Proposition read as followed:

“Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired.”



2010: Senate Bill 1449

In October of 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1449 which amended the Health and Safety Code turning possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor into a civil infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $100.

Full text of SB 1449 here


2003: Senate Bill 420: Medical Marijuana Program Act

Prop. 215, the Companionate Use Act of 1996 outlined below, was initially troubled by ill-defined wording. The Medical Marijuana Program Act was the first attempt to rectify this by setting up an identification card system for medical marijuana patients and allowing for patient collectives or non-profit organizations to provide marijuana to patients. This bill was a key necessary first step that allowed the state some form of regulation in the medical marijuana market.

Full text of Senate Bill No. 420 here


2000: Proposition 36: Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act

The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act continued the marijuana decriminalization work of the Moscone Act. Prop 36 was approved by ~61% of California voters, about 6,233,422 people, in November of 2000. In lieu of incarceration, first and second offense non-violent drug possession defendants, provided they met criteria that included no serious or violent felonies in the past 5 years and no possession of a firearm during the commission of the offense, were awarded a probationary sentence. As part of the probation, defendants were required to participate and complete a licensed or certified community drug treatment program. If and when the defendant completed the drug treatment program, the charges could be dismissed.

More on Proposition 36 here


1996: Proposition 215: Compassionate Use Act

The Compassionate Use Act or the Medical Marijuana Initiative was a voter initiative approved by California voters in November 1996. It passed with 55.6% in favor, 5,382,915 votes, with 44.4% against, 4,301,960 votes. It added section 11362.5 to the California Health and Safety Code and is still in effect today. Prop 215 allows for the use of medicinal cannabis. Provided a patient has a valid doctor’s recommendation, the patient or their primary care giver could possess and cultivate cannabis for personal medical use.

The official ballot summary appeared as follows:

  • Exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana.
  • Provides physicians who recommend use of marijuana for medical treatment shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege.
  • Declares that measure not be construed to supersede prohibitions of conduct endangering others or to condone diversion of marijuana for non-medical purposes.
  • Contains severability clause

Under Prop 215, the California cannabis market operated through collectives and cooperatives.

Full text of Proposition 215 and analysis can be found here


1975: Senate Bill 95: Moscone Act

The Moscone Act was the beginning of marijuana decriminalization in California. In the 1950s penalties for marijuana possession increased to a minimum punishment of 1 – 10 years. This didn’t stop people from possessing marijuana and arrests went from 140 in 1935, to 5,155 in 1960, to 103,097 in 1974. Marijuana arrests were producing ever increasing costs on law enforcement.  In July of 1975 the California legislature passed Senate Bill 95 that made possession of small amounts of cannabis a civil instead of a criminal offense, eliminating prison sentences for minor offenders.

More on the Moscone Act and general history of marijuana use in California here


1972: Proposition 19: California Marijuana Initiative (CMI)

CMI was the first attempt in US History to legalize marijuana by ballot measure. While it did not pass, roughly 66% of California (5,433,393 million citizens) voted against the initiative, it would have legalized personal use, the possession of, and all activities related to the cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis for adults 18 or older. The full text of the ballot summary was as follows:

“Removes state penalties for personal use. Proposes a statute which would provide that no
person eighteen years or older shall be punished criminally or denied any right or privilege because
of his planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, processing, otherwise preparing, transporting,
possessing or using marijuana. Does not repeal existing, or limit future, legislation prohibiting
persons under the influence of marijuana from engaging in conduct that endangers others.”

More on Prop 19 here

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