Everything You Need to Know to Buy Legal Weed in California
Photo by By tugolukof/Shutterstock
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.
Article continues below advertisement
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.
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.
Article continues below advertisement
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?
Article continues below advertisement
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.
How to Legally Buy Weed Online
With more cannabis available for purchase than ever before, it leaves many people wondering how to get their hands on the latest and greatest marijuana products. But what if marijuana isn’t legal in your state? How do you get access to legal cannabis? Whether you live in a state that has or has not legalized cannabis, finding and purchasing legal, hassle-free weed can sometimes be a confusing process.
Can I Buy Weed Online?
If you live in a state where marijuana is currently illegal, the short answer is no. The federal government still considers cannabis a Schedule I drug, grouped right beside cocaine and heroin. Shipping cannabis across state lines is always illegal at least until it becomes federally legal. While there are websites that will ship marijuana to you no matter how old you are or where you are located – remember that shipping across state lines is considered drug trafficking.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal, then the answer is maybe. As of 2020, there are 11 states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. If you live in one of those states, and delivery services are also legal in your city, then there is a good chance that you can purchase marijuana legally online.
However, even if you live in a non-legal state, not all cannabinoids are illegal – such as CBD. Hemp derived CBD products, anything with .03% THC or less, are federally legal and can be shipped to many states across the country. There are tons of CBD websites out there, so make sure you do your research before making a purchase!
Are Weed Delivery Services Legal?
While shipping cannabis across state lines may be illegal, many legal weed delivery services exist within the borders of certain states. In states where delivery services are legally allowed to operate, consumers can have products delivered straight to their door. While delivery services are not available in all 50 states – yet – it is an option for a few of our proud states!
In Arizona, California and New York deliveries are allowed for individuals with a state approved medical cannabis card. Recreational cannabis deliveries are also available for California residents over the age of 21. However, in New York, only certain products are available for delivery. In Colorado, a bill recently passed which will allow the delivery of recreational and medical marijuana starting in 2020. Legitimate delivery services are a new up and coming trend that consumers should be on the lookout for.
Order Ahead from Your Local Dispensary
While you may not be able to get your green delivered straight to your doorstep – many dispensaries offer a pre-order service. Different online services allow you to view and browse the store’s current inventory and place your order online for pickup. So on your next visit to any dispensary, skip the lines and place an order ahead of time.
How to Spot A Cannabis Scam
If you are one of the millions who frequent cannabis Instagram pages, you have undoubtedly seen some of the marijuana scammers advertising in the comment sections on popular pages. An account will advertise pictures of weed and then offer to ship anywhere in the world for a very affordable price. It can be deceiving because the account will even list a phone number that you can call and order through. However, these numbers are only temporary and created through a burner app. This means that as soon as they have made a transaction, they can trash the number. The account holder will then use this burner number to broker a deal with their latest victim. Once the victim has deposited money into the dealer’s accounts, they stop communication and are never heard from again. The buyer is left with no product and hole in their wallet.
While it may be tempting to order cannabis online, we strongly recommend you order only from reputable, legal services.
Tips for Ordering Marijuana Online
- Don’t buy cannabis from unverified accounts on social media. In fact, stay away from making weed purchases on social media, period.
- Don’t mail or receive cannabis across state lines.
- DO pre-order online from your favorite dispensary! Skip the lines, walk in and walk out!
- DO be on the lookout for verified legal marijuana delivery services – especially if you live in Colorado!
- DO check out Where’s Weed for the latest deals in your area and the most recent news!
Have you ever ordered marijuana online, or have you been thinking about it? Have you or someone you know fallen victim to an online marijuana scam? How about pre-ordering from your local dispensary? Tell us about your experiences! Share with us in the comments below!
With more cannabis available for purchase than ever before, it leaves many people wondering how to get their hands on the latest and greatest marijuana products. But what if marijuana isn’t legal in your state? How do you get access to legal cannabis? Whether you live in a state that has or has not legalized cannabis, finding and purchasing legal,