An Overview of the Cannabis Regulatory System - California and Elsewhere!


Cannabis cultivation, distribution, sale, and use has received a lot of attention in recent years, in most parts of the world. There is a shift in the mindset, acceptability, and general perception of the cannabis plant in recent years. Somehow, this has helped to demystify some of the long-held beliefs stemming from the U.S. War on Drugs, effectively giving room for better assessment of its benefits to society.

How exactly has the playing field changed over the years in regards to cannabis regulation? In this article, we look at the various cannabis regulations that affect different stakeholders of the cannabis industry.

General Overview

At the international platform, cannabis possession, cultivation, and supply are only allowed for medical use and scientific research. In this sense, on the world stage, generally, it is a crime to cultivate, possess, and supply cannabis. Many counties punish this crime by stringent prison terms. It was not until recently when several changes emerged on the perception and approach towards cannabis. The result of the move was an increase in the number of countries legalizing cannabis for both medical and recreational use.

Notably, though, this legalization often comes with strict guidelines on cultivation, supply, and personal consumption of cannabis. In this respect, therefore, in many places, cannabis is still not a commodity that one can access easily. 

In the United States, 11 States have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while 33 states have legalized it for medicinal purposes only. Other nations, including Canada, South Africa, Georgia, and Australia, have legalized marijuana either for medical, recreational uses, or both.

Cannabis Regulation Models in the United States

The USA stands out amongst many nations in its approach to regulation of cannabis use. At the Federal level, cannabis is still illegal, and there are severe penalties for trading, consumption, and possession of marijuana. 

Several states have now legalized either medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, or both. There is also a lot of diversity in the ways these states have enacted regulations on marijuana. There are specifications regarding cultivation, transportation, and even private possessions in homes across various states in the USA. Here is a highlight of multiple approaches given by just a few selected states.


California became the first state to legalize cannabis use with Prop 215 back in 1996. Prop 64, which would permit the recreational sale and adult-use of cannabis, was approved by California voters in 2016. 

Prop 64 culminated in the signing of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) by the then governor, Jerry Brown, on June 27, 2017. MAUCRSA created the general legal framework for the cannabis market in California. 

The bill created the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the lead agency responsible for licensing, regulation, and enforcement of laws for all cannabis-touching operators in the state. To supplement the BCC, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) was commissioned to regulate manufacturers and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) was made responsible for the oversight of cultivators and implementing the state’s track-and-trace system, METRC

To date, California remains one of the most dynamic cannabis markets – it’s expected to be a $7.7 billion market by 2022. Cannabis is legal to persons over 21 years old. The law prohibits possession of more than 28.5 grams of cannabis in the plant form and 8 grams in the form of concentrates. The law allows cannabis consumption in private property, although landlords and property owners can set their own rules regarding cannabis consumption. Additionally, California has been one of the few states to permit state-wide cannabis delivery. The laws in California provide a template for several other states.

Regulation Models In International Markets

In all the places mentioned above and others, legality, especially in regards to commercial use, varies significantly. Here is a highlight of approaches adopted by different nations.

  • In Canada, users in Ontario are only allowed to purchase marijuana over a government-run online platform. Still, in Quebec, Canada, you can smoke cannabis wherever tobacco smoking takes place. Other provinces within Canada also have specified rules. In Europe, all national governments currently oppose cannabis legalization, mainly for recreational use. There are penalties for illegal supply. Similarly, within the European Union (EU), possession of cannabis for personal use is an offense. Nonetheless, in more than a third of the nations, a prison sentence is not an acceptable penalty.
  • In Spain, there is no penalty for growing or consuming cannabis privately. But cannabis sale is still prohibited. Similar to South Africa, you can only grow and possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use as long as you meet the age requirement.
  • In the Netherlands, officials tolerate cannabis sale in shops as long as it follows specific guidelines. It is an illegal activity but not necessarily punishable. In many jurisdictions, discussions into the legalization of cannabis are at advanced stages. One can easily buy various edible twisted extracts from reputable retailers.  

Effects on the Social Set-Up

Statistics indicate that there are more than two million Americans under incarceration. Although it is hard to determine the exact number of people held over marijuana-related cases, in 2018, about 47.5 percent of federal prisoners (81,900) were serving a drug-related sentence.

In another report, out of 20,000 drug convictions in 2017, only 92 related to marijuana. One argument has been that most of these convictions related to minor possession of marijuana and not to trafficking or violent acts. Yet, they have a significant impact on society.

Fortunately, with the increased pace of legalization across states, more government entities are looking to amend the injustices from the past. With more states legalizing, we begin to see more licensing programs centered on social equity (giving communities affected by the War on Drugs an opportunity to be stakeholders in the legal cannabis industry) and the mass expungement of non-violent drug offenders and their records. For example, Illinois’ governor just expunged 11,000 non-violent, cannabis-related drug offenses upon the state’s legalization in 2020. 


Cannabis regulation, especially in older democracies, is a discussion that dates back almost a century now. In the last two decades or so, there has been a significant shift and rethinking the existing laws related to cannabis possession, growth, and distribution. Nowadays to buy cannabis seeds online, one can browse the net and choose among a plethora of strains. 

With the revelation that cannabis-based products such as a CBD have positive impacts on human health, more changes will undoubtedly come to effect going forward. At the global stage, it is clear that there is a need for a better approach to harmonize regulations passed in different jurisdictions to make them relevant across the world.



The materials made available in this blog were are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your cannabis attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

This article was written as a guest post/collaboration with Cannabis2Biz.

Written by antonio

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