Is Smoking Weed in Public Legal?

July 13, 2022 by Sarah Edwards in Rights  Special Report  
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Marijuana Use in America

In 1970, Congress declared marijuana illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. The Act categorizes marijuana as a Schedule One drug, which means that it has “a high potential for abuse and little to no medical benefit.”

However, smoking marijuana is no longer as taboo as it used to be, and in some states where it’s legal, you’ll find a dispensary on every other corner. While marijuana use has not been decriminalized on the federal level, individual states have legalized both recreational and medicinal marijuana.

Marijuana Use in California

California is and has always been at the forefront of marijuana legalization. In 1996, California was the first state in America to legalize medical marijuana.

Where You Can Smoke Marijuana in California?

There are only two places where you can legally smoke marijuana in California. First, you are allowed to smoke marijuana on private property. Your landlord can restrict your marijuana use, but generally, if you own your property, you are allowed to smoke marijuana.

Cannabis Cafe Los Angeles

The second place where marijuana is allowed is a licensed cannabis consumption lounge. You can find such lounges all over California. While these kinds of spaces are new, more are emerging throughout the state.

In contrast, California law prohibits smoking marijuana on any public land or in any public building.

For example, you can’t smoke marijuana on the beach, at a bar or restaurant, in a public park, or in any other place that’s open to the public. Anyone caught smoking marijuana in public is subject to a $100 fine.

Other Marijuana Regulations in California

Besides knowing where you can legally smoke marijuana, it’s essential to know the other applicable rules you must abide by with regard to marijuana use.

Who Can Legally Buy Marijuana?

In order to legally buy marijuana in California, you must be 21 or older. Recreational cannabis sellers require you to provide valid identification — either a passport or a driver’s license. However, if you have a medical marijuana card, the minimum age drops to 18.

What Can You Buy?

If you are 21 or older, there are virtually no limits on what you can buy or what can be sold at a dispensary. But generally, there are four main marijuana products sold at dispensaries: flowers, concentrates, edibles, and accessories.

Flower, which is sometimes referred to as the bud, is marijuana straight from the plant. Each plant has a unique flavor and benefits, so your local dispenser can suggest the best option for you based on your wants and needs.

Concentrates are typically oils that have a much higher potency. These are an excellent alternative to smoking and can be consumed through vape pens instead.
Edibles have grown in popularity due to the fact that they may provide pain and stress relief. These come in a variety of food products, such as gummies, snacks, and drinks.

Dispensaries also offer accessories to facilitate using your preferred form of marijuana.

How Much Marijuana Can You Legally Possess?

California law states that a consumer can possess 28.5 grams of cannabis plant material. This is close to an ounce. But if the marijuana is in a concentrated form, consumers are limited to 8 grams.

Where Can You Buy Marijuana?

The best place to purchase marijuana is at a licensed dispensary. There are over 1,000 licensed marijuana dispensaries across the state. However, some counties have zoning laws that prohibit dispensaries.

If you notice a bunch of dispensaries in one area and none in another, it’s likely that you’re near a county line where one county allows for dispensaries and the other doesn’t.

Currently, 62% of California’s cities, including Anaheim, Fremont, and Bakersfield, prohibit marijuana retail.

Other States Where Marijuana Is Legal

A majority of states have legalized marijuana for medical use, but far fewer have legalized the drug for recreational consumption.

US Marijuana Legality by State


As of 2022, 37 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some capacity.

States that have yet to legalize marijuana for medical purposes are Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming. The remaining states provide limited access to medical marijuana in highly restricted programs.


In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, 17 other states have followed suit. As of 2021, recreational marijuana was legal in:

  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • California
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Michigan
  • Vermont
  • Illinois
  • Arizona
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island

The District of Columbia and Guam have also legalized recreational marijuana.

While recreational marijuana is legal in these places, there could be penalties under federal law that could result in fines, civil penalties, or incarceration.

Looking for More Information on Marijuana Use in California?

Between the conflicting state and federal laws, marijuana use in the United States continues to be a complex topic with plenty of unanswered questions.

If you or someone you know is looking for more information on medical or recreational marijuana use, the criminal defense attorneys at Esfandi Law Group can provide you with the answers you need. Contact us today.

Need an Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

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