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How Can I Legally Smoke Marijuana in California?

Residents and tourists must understand the laws to avoid arrest

By Doug Mentes, Esq. on May 28, 2019
Updated on June 11, 2020

As of January 2018, it’s legal to smoke marijuana in the state of California. This is good news for the many residents and potential tourists to the state. However, there are still many laws in place that restrict the use of cannabis in California. Residents and tourists must understand these laws or they put themselves at risk of not only a bad trip, but arrest.

Who can smoke?

Adults ages 21 years and over, whether a California resident or not, can smoke. An individual can purchase, daily, approximately 1 ounce (28.5 grams) of the smokable stuff—as well as small amounts of oils, edibles and similar products. Adults between 18 and 21 years of age can only smoke with a physician’s recommendation, or state of California medical marijuana ID card. To purchase marijuana there are approximately 1,700 marijuana dispensaries located throughout the state; you just have to show a government-approved form of ID, like a driver’s license.

Where can I smoke pot?

Perhaps the biggest concern for pot users is where they can get high. The blunt response is that, while pot is legal, nearly all property in California—public or otherwise—is off-limits to marijuana use. There are a few small pockets of legal use, and the largest of those legal locations for use are private residences.

There is no restriction for Californians or their guests to smoke in their private homes if they are the owner of the residence. However, for those that are renters of their homes, or short-term lodging guests, the property owner or landlord can ban marijuana use on their property. And many do. If you are in the unfortunate position to be living or staying in a property that bans use of marijuana, there are a few options left.

The law legalizing marijuana in California made use within smoking lounges legal. Most lounges are connected to dispensaries. California cities can outlaw smoking lounges within their limits, and many have, but most California smoking lounges are clustered around the largest cities and tourist areas.

More and more, lounges are being planned as cities determine whether to allow them. Further, a growing location for legal use is marijuana-accepted lodging. There are many resorts, Airbnb listings, and events that allow marijuana smoking on their premises. A quick Google search will point out a host of providers marketing themselves to pot smokers.

What else should users know?

Transporting marijuana will be an issue for most users, and the law is strict in this area. Users cannot smoke in their vehicles, or any type of transportation vehicle, for that matter. If someone is going to transport his or her pot or edible, it must be in the unbroken, sealed container it was purchased in—or in an acceptable childproof container. Otherwise, opened containers must be stored in a locked space outside the cab, such as a vehicle’s trunk.

If police suspect use while driving they will treat it, like driving under the influence of alcohol—a very serious offense. There is no developed testing method for determining whether a driver is impaired by marijuana. Police will look for certain signs of marijuana impairment from a driver—signs that, unfortunately, are sometimes present in unimpaired drivers. Anyone using or transporting marijuana should be cautious and consider public transportation or taxis to get themselves around while using. Users leaving a smoking lounge or legal smoking event and getting in their vehicles may be sitting ducks for law enforcement.

There is still the concern with federal law enforcement, as any possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law. However, at least as of late 2018, there appears to be no efforts by federal law enforcement to step in.

Residents and tourists should ensure they are prepared for any questioning from law enforcement while possessing, transporting, or using marijuana. They should bookmark experienced southern California criminal defense attorneys, or their counterparts in northern California and San Diego, all of whom are ready to step in and protect someone facing trouble.

For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of criminal defense and drug and alcohol violations.

How Can I Legally Smoke Marijuana in California? – an article appearing in Super Lawyers Magazine February 2018

5 U.S. Lounges Where You Can Smoke Weed (Legally)

By Dominique Michelle Astorino

Courtesy of Moe Greens

The tables in Moe Greens’s bright and comfortable lounge are stocked with numerous accessories and instructions that facilitate a positive experience for both newbies and longtime tokers.

While it’s now perfectly legal to use marijuana recreationally in a handful of states, the subject of where to indulge is still a work in progress.

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E nvision this: You’re at a bar, but the energy is decidedly relaxed—even a bit posh. Instead of throwing back shots, you’re sharing a vape pen or tasting a cannabis confection from a local bakery. There’s trivia night going on in one corner, in the same area of the lounge where comedy night was happening last week. You can ask a cannabis aficionado (or “budtender”) about a new type of flower at the counter, or even order table service (complete with rolling papers) from your prereserved booth.

Marijuana prohibition’s slow but promising lift is making room for a wave of such public cannabis consumption spaces, known as “social consumption lounges” (SCLs). A s of now, there are very few spots open for business in this category, but the trend will explode in the coming months and years. Plans are in the works for many lounges to open between late 2019 and early 2020, particularly in Southern California. (West Hollywood alone has granted 16 on-site consumption licenses.) The Bay Area, as one could imagine, has been pioneering this space and currently has the largest number of SCLs, but there are a few in other areas of the United States as well.

Ahead are five stylish, comfortable, welcoming spaces for a new kind of happy hour, with some pointers and suggestions from Erik Knutson, CEO of Keef Brands. Not only is Erik the force behind Keef (known as a “ pioneering developer, producer, and distributor of award-winning cannabis-infused beverages, edibles, oils, and more ”) but he’s the cofounder and president of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH), founding board member of the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF), and cofounder of the Denver Packaging Company (DPAC).

Moe Greens

San Francisco, California

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About a block away from Twitter HQ in San Francisco’s tech-centric mid-Market neighborhood sits a whimsical yet sophisticated midcentury modern space, with rich olive hues and gold Sputnik chandeliers. “This is an upscale cannabis lounge that brings together all kinds of people and consumers to relax in their booths and experience a wide variety of products, including infused beverages,” says Knutson. There are different areas of this lounge, including a vaping zone called the Playground, a space called the Vault for consuming “concentrated cannabis extracts,” and finally the High Roller, for traditional smoking.

Word of advice from Knutson: “The lounge gets really busy, so be sure to make a reservation!” Though the tables and booths are first-come first-serve, to guarantee space and table ordering service, booking ahead is required. Keep in mind that the reservations aren’t free. As one could expect when buying a table at a club, it’s the same gist here—a booth in the High Roller or a table at the Playground runs $420 (heh) per hour, with enough space for five to six people. Because this lounge is also a dispensary, guests can buy any products they might want to enjoy on site before venturing into one of the three consumption rooms. And in case documenting the whole experience at a social consumption lounge is of importance, there’s free Wi-Fi. https://moegreens.com/

Magnolia Oakland

Oakland, California

San Francisco isn’t the only place in the Bay Area to enjoy marijuana with friends. Head to the East Bay to find Oakland’s Magnolia dispensary, vape lounge, and dab bar. BYOB(ud) or purchase a product on site for immediate consumption in one of the lounge’s “complimentary Volcano vaporizers,” Knutson says. “The dab bar and vape bar both have a wide selection of products.”

For those who aren’t into smoking or vaping, Magnolia provides the space to drink or eat edibles, apply topicals, or use a sublingual (under the tongue) tincture. There’s even an on-staff registered nurse who can counsel anyone with medically related questions or concerns. “Conveniently located near Jack London Square, this place provides a real sense of community for the East Bay’s cannabis consumers,” says Knutson. https://www.magnoliaoakland.org/

The Summit Private Lounge
Worcester, Massachusetts

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Travel a bit west of Boston to find the Summit Private Lounge in Worcester. This upscale bar and lounge offers an elevated yet rustic aesthetic to enjoy cannabis tastings while taking in live music or playing video games. To boot, it’s the only spot on the U.S. East Coast that allows legal cannabis consumption on its premises.

Rent or buy a smoking device (like a piece or a bong), and take advantage of the cold drinks, snacks, and coffee on offer. There are bimonthly events, paint nights—and yes, video games—all available to anyone with a membership or guest pass. The idea of a “members-only” club might sound pricey and exclusive, but the Summit makes its social cannabis experience accessible with a modest $15 per month fee. https://www.thesummitlounge.com/

The Coffee Joint

Denver, Colorado

Located next door to a dispensary, Denver’s The Coffee Joint may look like a run-of-the-mill beatnik coffee house, but it’s (as of now) the only place you can publicly (and legally) consume cannabis in Colorado . . . but you still can’t smoke. (Smoking in public is illegal, regardless of what you’re smoking.) As Denver’s first licensed cannabis social consumption club and coffee house, the Coffee Joint has been a pioneer in this space. It offers cannabis-centric educational events, as well as complimentary coffee and tea, plus snacks, beer, and kombucha for purchase. You’ve gotta pay to play, though. In order to consume cannabis at The Coffee Joint, there’s a $5 fee along with a liability waiver. https://thecoffeejointco.com/

Budberry (opening soon)

West Hollywood, California

Southern California is just getting on board with SCLs, and Budberry—opening in 2019— looks like an L.A. dream . Though it’s open date is still TBD, some of the renderings have been published online, and the plan is for chef Jeff Danzer, aka “ Jeff the 420 Chef ,” to serve artisanal edibles like macarons during the day and (potentially) cannabis cocktails at night.

While San Francisco started the trend, Los Angeles—staying true to its roots—will make it aesthetic and Instagrammable. The Barbie pink ’50s diner-style space will bring elements of modern and retro design together in a decidedly chic environment, featuring the pièce de résistance: an open kitchen, where Danzer will make magic happen for a hungry audience. In addition to the sweet treats and snacks, Budberry is slated to have infused drinks like coffee and soda on the menu.

Social consumption lounges are on the rise with the San Francisco Bay Area leading the charge. Recent legislation means exciting development for public marijuana use in Colorado, Nevada, and other parts of California.